It didn’t take long for sweet and sassy SES Maree to capture the hearts of Port Stephens Koalas volunteers.
As her name suggests, the koala was rescued by the NSW SES in November 2017, when she was hit by a car, and taken into care by the volunteer organisation.
She suffered a head injury and loss of eyesight, which rescuers initially hoped she would regain.
However, a veterinary neurologist confirmed the loss was permanent.
The accident also caused damage to Maree’s frontal lobe and left her with a tendency to turn in circles to the right when on the ground.
“Where possible, we release koalas into the wild, but some are kept in care permanently because they can’t be released – Maree is one of them,” Port Stephens Koalas secretary Ron Land told Newcastle Weekly.
There are plenty more stories just like Maree’s to come out of the rescue organisation.
Established in 2016, Port Stephens Koalas operates 24/7 and exists solely to rescue and treat injured koalas, predominantly from the Tomaree and Tilligerry peninsulas, but also from as far south as Morisset and as east as Muswellbrook, right up to the Port Macquarie border.
A team of 80 active volunteers and 25 frontline rescuers and carers work tirelessly to combat the threat to koalas from development and habitat loss, one rescue at a time.
Last year, 58 koalas were rescued or found dead and another 31 released or relocated, clocking up 1,348 total days in care.
However, while grateful for the funding it receives, it represents only a fraction of its annual operational costs.
“To put it in perspective, with the recent fires there have been a lot of burns victims,” Mr Land said.
“The burns cream costs $100 for a 100-gram tube, and we use one tube per day on each koala burned.”
Mr Land quelled any misunderstanding that the organisation received any of the state government’s recent $3 million commitment to a purpose-built koala hospital in-hand.
He noted, while Port Stephens Council pledged to match the funding dollar-for-dollar, the council was the “sole keeper” of the money to directly oversee the hospital’s construction.
“We don’t see any of that money,” Mr Land added.
“This has had a perverse effect on our fundraising; we’ve still got to raise every dollar for our day-to-day operations.”
Slated for construction later this year, the state-of-the-art koala eco-tourism centre and hospital will house up to 12 koalas, from short-term observation to palliative care, expanding on the current rescue and treatment facility at Treescape. It will double as a sanctuary.
It is hoped it will be operational by this time next year.
In the meantime, Port Stephens Koalas can use all the help it can get.
Go to portstephenskoalas.com.au to donate or adopt a koala.