Somewhere between Byron Bay and Newcastle, I found myself in Port Macquarie, with visions of laying on white sand in my head. However, Mother Nature, with her disregard for my relaxed weekend plans, had more cruel intentions in mind.
The day I stepped off that Greyhound bus in the centre of this city of 40,000, the sky was grey and my sandals were soggy (I know, fantastic imagery). The previous weeks of perfect weather were far from my mind as the drizzling rain promised to take its time in passing. With those visions of the beach fading, I needed something to haul me out of my rainy-day slump. Enter the koalas.
The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie was established in 1973 and is mainly a volunteer-run organization, managed by the Koala Preservation Society Australia. Each year, up to 250 koalas are admitted for treatment and rehabilitation. Aside from Chlamydia, a current threat to populations of wild koalas, motor vehicle accidents and dog attacks bring many koalas to the hospital.
While some of the animals may be rehabilitated and released to the wild, others will live out their days at the centre. The chlamydia leads to blindness, and koalas with permanent injuries may not be able to live in the wild without the care they receive at the hospital.
It can be a sad story, but the dedication and care of volunteers is uplifting. While there are opportunities to volunteer for as little as a month, the majority of volunteers are Port Macquarie residents that devote years to the organization. Visiting is free, and daily tours showcase the extent of the volunteers’ knowledge and affection for these beloved creatures. Donations are completely welcome, and proceeds from the gift shop go right back into funding the hospital.
If you are looking for cuddling koala selfie, this isn’t the place to go. But, if what you want is to support a worthy organization, learn a whole lot about koalas and the problems they face, and get inspired by the commitment and compassion of volunteers, it’s the perfect fit–rain or shine.
Visit the official website of the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie to learn more.