Funds from the appeal will help the koalas after the devastating bushfires. (Supplied: M Fillinger)
Images of horribly burnt koalas during the country’s bushfire emergency have tugged at the nation’s heartstrings so much, that more than $567,000 has been crowdfunded to help the struggling marsupials in two weeks.
- Funds from the koala hospital’s GoFundMe campaign will be spent on drinking stations and a breeding program for the marsupials still in the wild
- More than 12,000 people, including some from around the world, have donated money in just over two weeks
- Scammers attempted to clone the hospital’s website
When the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital started the GoFundMe page on October 31 it hoped to raise $25,000 for the rescue and rehabilitation work in the region where it as many as 350 koalas may have perished.
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the generosity of people donating,” volunteer Lyn Booth said.
“It’s far exceeding what we expected.”
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital normally treats between 200 and 250 koalas each year but that work is expected to increase following the recent bushfires in the region.
Ms Booth said the koalas currently under care after the bushfires would need to stay for a lot longer than normal.
“We expect to have the koalas in here for up to 12 months because they won’t be able to be released into their habitat because it’s non-existent.
“So we’ve got to wait for that bush to regenerate so that they can be put back out there.”
Ms Booth said most of the animals in the current bushfire zones were suffering dehydration, not only from habitat loss in the fires, but from the drought which has left little water in the leaves the koalas eat.
Money raised from the campaign will go toward buying and installing drinking stations for the marsupials which remained in their natural habitat and a wild koala breeding program.
Ms Booth said the breeding program would see some of the rescued koalas be released back into the wild in a new location and discussions were ongoing with Forestry Corp to try find a suitable location.
Local and global support
More than 12,000 people have donated to the fundraiser in two weeks, with contributions starting from just a few dollars and the majority under $100.
It has attracted interest around the world, including Rosemarie Graham from Canada.
“I have seen these beautiful animals here when they were at the zoo, it breaks my heart when I see what is happening to them I am grateful knowing that there are so many people who care about them — God bless.”
Lyn Booth co-ordinates the hospital’s gift shop, which has also been inundated with support.
“We do [normally] get a lot of donations but this is mind-blowing.
Some of the money raised will be used to treat animals in the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. (ABC News: Kirstie Wellauer)
“The donations and takings through the little souvenir shop have increased seven-fold each day.
“Everyone loves the koalas and it’s tugging at their heartstrings.
“We have lost so many it’s horrific the loss that we know of and how it will affect the ongoing number of koalas in the area.”
Scammers take advantage of publicity
The publicity the koala hospital has received during the bushfires has led to it being targeted by scammers.
“We’ve discovered a couple of scam websites, our site was completely cloned so that it looked like it was all coming to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital,” Ms Booth said.
“We did discover it quite quickly, so if you do see any of those, they aren’t genuine.”
This koala survived an out-of-control bushfire south of Port Macquarie. (ABC Mid North Coast: Wiriya Sati)
The hospital has become aware of other websites fundraising for their service and is establishing whether they are genuine.
In the meantime, Ms Booth encouraged donations to be made directly to either the official GoFundMe campaign or the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital website.
Established in 1973, the hospital relies heavily on donations and volunteers to carry out their work caring for koalas.
Ms Booth said the ongoing care of the koalas was their biggest expense.
“We are all volunteers here except for the clinical staff, so almost all of the money goes towards helping the koalas.”