It was a Summer they will never forget. The team at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital working tirelessly to save Koalas injured in the bushfires.
Hundreds of Koalas perished in the 201 days the fires burnt in and around the area – known as a critical Koala habitat and breeding ground in New South Wales.
Wildlife experts say up to 350 Koalas may have died in what has been described as a national tragedy with up to 60 to 70 per cent of the breeding populations lost.
And then there were the ones who were rescued. Who’s lives were saved by the kindness and generosity of locals and the courage of the volunteers and small staff at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospitals.
Nabiac Austin was amongst them.
This gentle male koala was found alongside the four lane M1. He had been severely burnt - not just from the flames, but the radiant heat. He was dehydrated and smoke affected. The area he was located was just out of Nabiac, around 100 kms south of Port Macquarie.
Nabiac Austin ran onto the road and thankfully a quick-thinking motorist stopped the traffic, rescued him and brought him straight to the Hospital for treatment. It was touch and go at first as staff attended to his burns. Now a few months on and Nabiac Austin is making a remarkable recovery. He is healing from his burns and according to the volunteers, thoroughly enjoys his daily supplementary fluids. Twice daily, the volunteers at PMKH give him a non-lactose milk of formula called Divalect, which is easily ingested. They also ensure he receives Eucalyptus specific to his own region.
Mick Feeney is one of dozens of volunteers at the hospital who worked tirelessly over the Black Summer searching for, rescuing and rehabilitating Koalas, including Austin. “We do what we do because of them. It makes us want to be better. Koalas are like a healthy infection of the heart -There’s simply no cure.”
Nabiac Austin, along with all the other remaining burns victims have damp towels wrapped around branches to protect their bottoms, legs and arms as their burnt fur and skin is very sensitive.
Initially they were treated with flamazine, vitamin e and then bandaged. Now a few months on and the bandages are off, with recovery is well underway.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital will keep most of the Koalas for at least a year before they will be returned to the area they come from.
Their injuries should have healed well by then and this also allows time for the vegetation to regrow in the vast area of damaged bushland. Nabiac Austin will hopefully be among them.
Sadly, some may never be able to go home, with damage to their limbs affecting their climbing ability which hinders their chance to feed and thus survive. They will become permanent members of the Koala Hospital family where they will be cared for and nurtured every day by an extraordinary team of volunteers doing some extraordinary work – all in the name of Help.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is eternally grateful to those in the community and indeed the world who sent donations, gifts and letters of support. The donations will be well spent on protect and caring for our beloved Australian icon including a new breeding program and drinking stations.