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Australia Koalas injured in NSW bushfires treated in couple's lounge room

22:15  11 november  2019
22:15  11 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

Seven koalas burnt in bushfire successfully treated at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

  Seven koalas burnt in bushfire successfully treated at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital Injured koalas receive life-saving treatment after surviving devastating bushfires on the New South Wales mid-north coast. © Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sparky the koala is rescued by volunteers from a blaze at Crowdy Head National Park. (Supplied: Koalas In Care Inc) The first rescued koala was admitted to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital after it was found in burnt bushland south of Port Macquarie, by a member of the public. "This little koala was curled up in a ball on the burnt ground," hospital clinical director Cheyne Flannagan said.

a close up of a stuffed animal sitting on a blanket: Sooty the koala recovers from the bushfires (ABC News: Nadia Daly)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sooty the koala recovers from the bushfires (ABC News: Nadia Daly) The lounge room in Christeen and Paul McLeod's house in Taree, New South Wales, is a makeshift burns unit.

The husband and wife team behind Koalas In Care are treating koalas that have been injured or left homeless by the bushfires raging around the town.

"Koalas are the priority at the moment," Ms McLeod told 7.30.

At the moment there are 24 koalas in their house. The couple are not vets, just passionate and committed volunteers.

Australian bushfires wipe out half of koala colony, threaten more

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"We've just been doing this for 27 years now," Ms McLeod said.

'He's been very badly affected'

The injured koalas are first treated for burns.

"This is the gruesome task of having to clean up burns and treat them and hope that their little paws recover," Ms McLeod said as she swabbed the burnt paws of Sooty, the latest koala brought in.

"He's been very badly affected. His nose, his chin, his fur has been scorched.

"It's a time-consuming job to do the treatments.

"It's better to have them sedated so you can get it done without too much stress to them.

"They've already been through a lot of stress in the fire."

Cream is applied to Sooty's ears, nose and paws.

"What we're doing is cleaning the soot off and we trim off any excess skin that's peeling off," Ms McLeod said.

NSW koala hospital flooded with donations after bushfires

  NSW koala hospital flooded with donations after bushfires Australians have opened their hearts and wallets to help save NSW's koala population which has been decimated by the fires, raising almost $350,000 in the space of days. The donations, made via an online fundraiser, will go to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.As well as nursing 18 injured koalas back to health, the hospital is mobilising the production and distribution of drinking stations to help give dehydrated koalas a chance of surviving in the wild.© Supplied An injured koala is treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

"Then we apply more cream."

Infection is the main risk for the koala.

"You've got a dirty environment and it's important that you get them all clean," she said.

"We'll be running antibiotics and pain relief as well."

And there are mittens for the koala's paws.

"It just keeps the cream on the place that we want it, so that he's not damaging the area further," Ms McLeod said.

People from around the country make the mittens and send them to koala sanctuaries for emergencies like these bushfires.

'A difficult and painful process for them'

Mr McLeod said that during fires it was koalas' natural instincts that sometimes got them into trouble.

"When it comes to fires, koalas are probably their own worst enemy," he said.

"Their natural instinct tells them to go to the top of the tree and that's where the heat is.

"So what we've come across is koalas high up in the trees and we've had to use bucket trucks and long ladders to achieve rescues.

'It's going to be catastrophic': Koala shelters inundated as fire tears through bush habitat

  'It's going to be catastrophic': Koala shelters inundated as fire tears through bush habitat Hospital team leader Gabi Rivett said she had never experienced such a high volume of injured wildlife. While some koalas are found relatively unscathed but now homeless, others are rushed to the centre with severe burns."They're just a harmless little creature that does nothing wrong and has had so many problems with habitat loss and now the fires, it's a huge dilemma,” Ms Rivett said. © Aidan Kean A long-awaited drink for this little koala being cared for at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Dozens of koalas are now spread across the centre, including more than 10 in the clinic's intensive care ward.

To find out the latest on the NSW and QLD bushfires, please refer to:

  • NSW RFS
  • QLD RFS

"Even if by some miracle the koala escapes the heat in the top, when they come back down they're going to walk across hot coals.

"So it's a very difficult and painful process for them."

After triage the koalas are taken through to the recovery ward in the house.

There the koalas are given some gum leaves to eat and Ventolin to deal with their smoke inhalation.

A nebuliser in the room also helps.

'Somebody has to look after them'

With the koala population already under threat from chlamydia and a reduction in habitat, the McLeods are not optimistic for the animal's future.

"It couldn't have been more traumatic for us to see our koala habitat destroyed by fire," Ms McLeod said.

"This fire's gone through our main koala habitat area, so we're expecting large numbers of koalas to come out of here.

"We expect it to be quite devastating for our koala population in Hillville and Tinonee area."

But still they battle on to help save the animals they love.

"Somebody has to look after them because nobody else is doing too much, as far as the Government, in protecting their habitat and protecting them," Ms McLeod said.

"So we do this and hope that we can save some of them."

"We have a number of koalas in care. And it's a scary scenario, but that may well be the only insurance policy koalas have for the area here," Mr McLeod said.

"We're not talking small areas. We're talking thousands of hectares that it's totally out of the question to put koalas back into."

When it is successful, it is worth all the effort.

"The big buzz you get out of it is the day that you are able to take them back home," Mr McLeod said.

If they have a home to go back to.

Watch this story tonight on 7.30.

Koala hospital's GoFundMe campaign raises more than $1m in wake of bushfire devastation .
An online fundraising appeal set up by a New South Wales koala hospital to rescue and rehabilitate marsupials devastated by bushfires raises more than $1 million, in what is believed to be one of the most successful GoFundMe campaigns in Australia.Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's had by Thursday night raised $1,078,000 on GoFundMe, eclipsing the initial stated target of $25,000.

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