While traveling in Australia with his family, AdventureSmith Explorations’ founder Todd Smith encountered a unique cause and a simple way to leave a place better than he found it by adopting a koala at the Port Macquairie Koala Hospital.
A special note in light of Australia’s summer 2019-20 bush fires
With more than 14.7 million acres burned across the country’s six states, we encourage readers to donate to the Koala Hospital via their website or current GoFundMe campaign, which is funding bringing automatic drinking stations to burn areas to help hydrate affected koalas as well as the world’s first Wild Koala Breeding Program to help recover the koala population in this difficult time.
Finding the Port Macquairie Koala Hospital
Heading to Australia my family and I were excited about many things, our Great Barrier Reef cruise, visiting the incredible Uluru and of course seeing the iconic Australian wildlife like kangaroo and koala bears. Kangaroos were in abundance, it seemed, as they were everywhere including on the golf course, while the koala bears remained elusive. After days of not seeing these cute creatures, we passed by the Koala Hospital north of Sydney to ensure we had an encounter—and we were so glad we stopped. Not only because we saw koalas but also because we became educated about their plight, we learned how to spot them in the wild (which we did multiple times thereafter) and we were able to “adopt” one cute koala that had been through a harrowing experience.
A Bit About Koala Life
Koala bears are found primarily on the eastern side of Australia and actually have nothing to do with bears but are in fact a part of the marsupial family. With a diet mainly consisting of eucalypt leaves, they have evolved with a “super liver” that is able break down and digest the fibrous and toxic eucalypt plant. Because of this low nutrient diet of primarily eucalypt leaves, koalas have adapted to sleep up to 18 hours a day and therefore spend most of their time high up in the trees.
Why Do Koalas Need Saving?
Koalas almost reached extinction in 1930 when they were hunted for their soft fur. Fortunately fur hunting was banned and the population has had a regrowth, however new threats persist. This arboreal species’ habitat becomes threatened due to deforestation that continues in the name of development, putting the koala population yet again in question.
This arboreal species’ habitat becomes threatened due to deforestation that continues in the name of development, putting the koala population yet again in question.
With broken up habitats, the koalas are forced to navigate their way across busy roads, past aggressive pet dogs and in the case of O’Briens Freddo, the koala we adopted, ridiculous humans. Also because of this deforestation, koalas are forced to live closer together which creates issues with overpopulation, causing inbreeding, more energy expended to find food, eating poorer quality of eucalypt leaf and higher contractibility of spreadable disease. Additionally, the common bushfires also affect koalas and their habitat.
Saving O’Briens Freddo
O’Briens Freddo (the koala) was just out for an evening stroll through a front yard to find his dinner in a nearby tree when he was corralled by a group of drunk locals. Supposedly thinking it would be fun, they put this scared koala in the trunk of their car and drove away only to find a welcoming ditch on the side of the road. Abandoning the crashed vehicle, they went on with their night, leaving the poor creature in the trunk. In the morning, one of the group member’s conscience kicked in and she left an anonymous message with the police who retrieved the koala, bringing him safely to the Koala Hospital. Fortunately O’Briens Freddo was not injured, but the kidnapped koala was of course highly stressed. After minimal human contact and recovery, the hospital released O’Briens in a safe location far from humans.
Adopting a koala is a major source of funding for the programs that the Koala Hospital offers & how could we resist adopting O’Briens Freddo with his crazy experience?
As a naturalist and a wildlife lover, once hearing this story and the overall plight of the koala, I knew we had to do what we could to help keep this population of animals strong and support the organization doing this great work. Adopting a koala is a major source of funding for the programs that the Koala Hospital offers and how could we resist adopting O’Briens Freddo with his crazy experience?
Australia’s Koala Hospital
The Koala Hospital was started in 1973 by concerned citizen Jean Starr, and in collaboration with other interested residents the Port Macquarie Koala Preservation Society began. In 1975 the group was able to build their first hospital for koalas. Throughout the years additions and renovations were made until the new building was built in 2005.
The Koala Hospital rescues up to 200-300 koalas a year.
Located in between Sydney and Brisbane, the Koala Hospital provides koalas opportunities to recover and receive medical treatment in the Intensive Care Unit, as well as to convalesce in the outdoor yards, and is complete with a specialized koala ambulance. This incredible organization rescues up to 200-300 koalas a year. Once the koalas have returned to health the hospital releases them back into the wild in a safe place as close to their social group as possible.
In addition to the important day-to-day saving of koalas, the hospital also advocates for the preservation and expansion of designated habitats for koalas, as well as collecting data for research about koalas in collaboration with the University of Sydney, the Australian Museum, and many other colleges and wildlife researchers.
The information about koalas in this blog was compiled from the koala brochure prepared by the Koala Hospital in Port Macquairie Australia. Visit their website to adopt a koala, and learn more about my trip by reading my Great Barrier Reef Cruise Review or find booking details for the trip: Great Barrier Reef Cruises. Note that this blog was originally published in November 2018 but was updated in January 2010 in light of the Australia bush fires’ impact on koalas.