The recent bush fires in Australia over many months caused catastrophic devastation to both wildlife and the environment.
The images and videos circulating on social media caused so much heartache and a feeling of helplessness for this iconic species, among many others. Unfortunately many of the koalas that survived the fire died from starvation, smoke inhalation and dehydration as well as disease related issues.
I live in Western Australia on the opposite side of the country where the raging fires surged on, relentlessly flattening everything in its path. Although fires occur regularly every year during summer, last year the size and area covered was unprecedented.
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) are marsupials and are inaccurately known as a koala bear. Koalas give birth to underdeveloped joeys which stay in the mothers pouch for the next 6 to 7 months or until fully weaned around a year old. Koalas are slow moving and spend the majority of time asleep while digesting their food.
It is due to there slow mobility that these animals are particluarly vulnerable during bushfires as escape is virtually impossible.
Wild koalas are found from west of Cairns in Far North Queensland right down into South Australia, with the vast majority of the populations on the coastal side of the mountain ranges right down into Victoria.
As early as 2050 koalas face extinction in parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
It is imperative that deforestation needs to stop to enable the restoration and cultivation of habitat. There is also a desperate call to restore Indigenous fire management in the rural areas.
The Port Macquarie Koala hospital, a licenced Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility in New South Wales were overwhelmed by the volume of rescued koalas brought in for care and rehabilitaion.
They put out a plea to the public for funds, koala mits and pouches. The response from the public in general was outstanding.
Unfortunately the fires were closely followed by the Covid19 pandemic which forced the sanctuary to close to the public, halting all self guided tours and museum visits untill further notice. However the work at the hospital continues.
Although it is just a small contribution, 'adoption' is one way the centre raises funds. This was the incentive for me to raise funds for the hospital. Doing a painting of koalas during an artist in residence demonstration was the perfect platform for me to raise awareness and funds for the hospital.
I 'adopted' Lion Leo a young male who was found by a homeowner in his back yard. Concerned that the animal had been attacked, the rescue team from Port Macquarie was despatched. To their amazement they found he had amazing, beautiful blue eyes. This is a rare genetic phenomenon in koalas who occasionally do get admitted to the hospital having one blue eye and one brown eye but not both.
Although he has now been released the funds collected assist with ongoing monitoring and care of these iconic Australian animals. https://shop.koalahospital.org.au/