“The fires in the Port Macquarie area burnt for 210 days straight. Sadly, hundreds of koalas didn’t make it, but there were those who did, thanks to an incredible team of dedicated volunteers at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital who were there to help. Mick Feeney is one of them.”
It’s 8:15am and 70-year-old volunteer Mick Feeney has already done a 6- hour round trip to rescue a koala from a remote area some 180kms away. The young female named Nikki will be assessed as soon as possible. “You never know what the day will hold but just to be able to get out of bed, knowing you are making a difference is glorious.“
As one of 8 children, Mick says growing up in an orphanage in Ireland was tough but it was the kind few who helped him, which had a profound effect on him wanting to help others -be it people or animals.
Now retired, Mick fell in love with the area and the animals he shares it with. He joined his sister as a volunteer 9 years ago to help rescue and return as many injured Koalas back to their habitat as possible. “That’s why I what I do here – to get them back to where they belong.”
“We call this ‘room service’. I check on the burn’s victims, clean and supply fresh eucalyptus. It’s not glamourous picking up their poop. They’re just lucky we find them adorable.”
A lot of the Koalas who suffered burns are given formula which is a non-lactose milk called Divetelact. Many marsupials find it easy to ingest and it’s an excellent source of nutrition.“What I find often when I’m feeding a koala and it’s just me and that koala I get lost in their eyes, I’m capturing something very special I’m thinking I’m doing something not many get to do. It’s a privilege, it’s a fabulous experience. The intimate trust that’s there’s a wild animal. To have a one on one with then them borders on something spiritual.”
Mick takes special care of bushfire victims such as Nabiac Austin who was badly burnt in the NSW Bushfires in November 2019. “This little guy was saved from the side of the highway. When he came to us, he had burns on his hands and feet and on his flanks and his ears were singed from the radiant heat. His rate of recovery is remarkable but were still not quite sure if or when he will go home.”
Port Macquarie Clinical Director Scott Castle attends to Nikki, the Koala Mick rescued this morning. She has been bitten by a goanna, but her eye is of concern too as it could be the result of Chlamydia.
Mick explains: “This little Koala will have to stay around 6 weeks so we can watch her carefully before releasing her back home. It’s essential she goes back to where her homeland is when she’s better. Hopefully the bush would have regenerated too”.
By late afternoon Mick heads out again. This time he is releasing a Kola back into the wild. “Today, is a great day. We do what we do because of them. It makes us want to be better. Koalas he says are like a healthy infection of the heart. There’s simply no cure.”
“Our arms aren’t long enough to cuddle them all but letting them go is the best feeling in the world. I never tire of this feeling. Giving a koala back where they belong. That koala would probably not have made it but someone in the community cared enough to pick up the telephone and this is the payoff. This is a day well spent.”
Mick Feeney has been a volunteer at the Port Maquarie Koala Hospital for over 9 years. He joins a formidable and dedicated team of other volunteers committed to protecting and caring for these beautiful creatures