Founded by Jean and Max Starr in 1973, the hospital is entirely self-funded from donations, bequests, adoptions and their kiosk.
It is managed by the charitable organisation, the Koala Preservation Society of Australia Inc., only has three paid positions, 170 volunteers and hosts one overseas volunteer for one month every month - a position that is in very high demand. Facilities include a treatment room, eight internal intensive care units, six outdoor intensive care units and 33 rehabilitation yards.
This unique Hospital not only treats between 250-300 sick and/or injured koalas each year, it successfully rehabilitates and returns about 80% of their admissions to the wild. Primary causes of illness and injuries to koalas are Chlamyidiosis (a virulent bacterial infection that causes 'wet bottom' and conjunctivitis which, if detected in time, can be treated by antibiotics); motor vehicle accidents, dog attacks and the dreaded bushfires, which not only maim and kill koalas but lead to the destruction of their rapidly diminishing habitat and food trees.
Of the 900 species of eucalypt trees that grow in Australia, only 60 of them are 'food trees' so koalas' habitat is determined by the availability of these trees.
Australian Music legend John Williamson is also passionate about saving koalas. John has been a patron of the Koala Preservation Society of Australia ever since he met one of their founders, the late Jean Starr, in the early eighties. During a visit to the Koala Hospital, he witnessed an emergency rescue call come in. The entire experience was so impressive for John that it inspired him to write the song "Good Bye Blinky Bill", which became enormously popular throughout Australia. He very generously donated the proceeds from his song to the Koala Preservation Society. John raised a considerable amount of money that enabled the Koala Hospital to build a new "John Williamson Wing" which houses their intensive care unit.
Visitors to the Koala Hospital can view the treatment room through a large window and see the koalas being treated. You can also observe the recovery, care and feeding of the koalas.The Koala Hospital is open daily from 8am until 4.30pm with feeding times at 8am and 3pm. Walk & Talk tours are conducted at 3pm daily where the koalas will be fed and the volunteer will explain how the koalas came into their care. Admission is free and donations are welcome - you can even adopt a koala! Located at Lord St and Roto Place, Port Macquarie. Phone 02 6584 1522, koalahospital.org.au
How long have you been breeding Koalas?
For more than 30 years now my passion for Koalas has grown and grown. When I first received koalas from another wildlife sanctuary (nearly 40 years ago) I was working for my parents who owned and operated their own wildlife park in Nowra NSW. Once the Koalas arrived my fascination grew and grew and it wasn't long then I looked to breed these amazing and unique animals.
Why start the breeding program?
Shortly after getting the Koalas, (and I had done a lot of training prior to their arrival), the next obvious hurdle was to successfully and consistently breed them. Back in those days there wasn't a lot of information readily available out there on Koalas, there were a lot of people trying different things and they too were looking for solid and reliable information on them. It seemed every time I came across or close to the answer on Koalas I was looking for, I had even more questions! I desperately wanted to understand how to care and look after Koalas at the highest possible level so as to have the best chance of breeding them, and some day be able to help other institutions with their breeding programs and maybe even help our wild population.
Why is the program important?
We know more and more now how endangered the Koala has become. Without our knowledge of breeding and husbandry ideas and the requirements that are so important to Koalas, how will we protect them in the wild? Our knowledge gained from captive Koala colonies can be used to work with and help wild Koala populations.
We know what Koalas need to survive, what their limitations are and what they need for protection in the wild. Our captive population of Koalas
at Billabong not only give us Knowledge and better understanding, we believe they are ambassadors for their species, helping us in so many ways to help Koalas in the wild. We are able to educate the public about the plight of these beautiful animals in the wild, and what we need to
do to ensure their survival, obviously Koala breeding is so important to their survival. If we remove certain elements then they won't breed and therefore the species is doomed before we even start. There is no point in protecting an area if we don't know that within that area the animals are going to be safe, secure and able to reproduce.
What is the difference between the Koalas you breed and wild Koalas?
Obviously in captivity, the problems that exist in the wild for Koalas, the battles they face, whether it's dog attacks, cars, or loss of habitat, are removed. So we can significantly increase both the lifespan of the Koala and the breeding potential of that animal in captivity. We work within a program and look forward to a situation where we could potentially one day breed animals in captivity that are specifically bred for release. This means that those animals would have very little contact with humans or dogs and any other household situations so that they wouldn't become complacent and would therefore have a greater success of being released back into the wild.
How many Koalas do you have in the program?
I normally keep about 20 Koalas in our population here which obviously fluctuates up and down. We are heavily involved in our program this year to increase our numbers because there is potential need for other institutions to acquire Koalas. I'm hoping to increase our breeding program in the near future as the need is increasing for a larger, more sustainable captive population.
For more information about Billabong Zoo, please visit their website www.billabongzoo.com.au
Hello Koalas is a uniquely designed cultural experience, with beautifully hand painted Hello Koalas sculptures, many delivering an environmental and koala conservation message, accompanied by the opportunity to see real koalas resident at the Koala Hospital.
There are four Hello Koalas sculptures at the Koala Hospital, including 'Sunshine" which was created by the famous Australian singer and artist, John Williamson who is a patron of the Koala Hospital.
Acknowledging its outstanding success as a cultural tourism attraction, TripAdvisor has ranked Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail #3 of 44 Things to Do in Port Macquarie and #1 Landmark.
Much loved by the local community and a big hit with visitors, the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail has become an iconic brand for Port Macquarie.
While the committed visitor may spend up to three days, tracking down all the Hello Koalas sculptures, there are around 10 located right in the heart of town and a further 20 sculptures a short drive away, in high profile locations such Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, so even if you are in Port for just a day or two, you can easily see around 30 sculptures on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail.
Hello Koalas sculptures are sponsored by local business and community groups, making the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail freely available for everyone to enjoy. How good is that!
Don't forget to takes lots of photos and post them on facebook or Instagram and Hello Koalas sculptures are always pleased to receive 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor!
You can also collect a Hello Koalas memento from one of the local stockists or purchase online from home.
A free Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail Guide is available from participating partners like the Glasshouse Arts and Visitor Centre and hotel brochure racks or download the Trail Guide pdf from www.hellokoalas.com
Please keep in mind, that some sculptures may move around so it's wise to check the website. Or you can email email@example.com or send a text to 0416 641 482 for information updates, personally delivered by the Hello Koalas team 24/7.
On the website, you will also find the latest news about the unfolding program of events and activities planned for the 3rd Hello Koalas Festival, 6 9 June 2019, including the inaugural Hello Koalas Festival Treasure Hunt which will run over three days, with lots of prizes to be won. See www.hellokoalas.com or follow the Hello Koalas Festival on facebook @hellokoalas1
DISCOVER NEW HELLO KOALAS
Don't miss recent arrivals on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, including Professor Eugene Eucalyptus, designed by Kim and Wayne Staples, and resident at Charles Sturt University. And look out for our very own Lachlan Macquarie Hello Koalas sculpture, designed by Pauline Roods, and resident at Port Macquarie Museum. More details www.hellokoalas.com