A new and informative exhibition has opened at the library to acknowledge the 45 year history of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
On display until the end of November, the exhibition shows a snapshot the hospital’s history.
Starting with just one room to treat injured and sick koalas 45 years ago, the hospital has grown to become a popular tourist attraction, scientific research and education centre and a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
Volunteer Jane Duxberry said the exhibition was a great chance for people to find out some of the history of the much loved hospital.
“The hospital is a non for profit organisation which relies on donations, adoptions and memberships to survive and continue to help the animals we love,” Ms Duxberry said.
“The exhibition is a snapshot of our history over the last 45 years thanks to the work of Max and Jean Starr.
"The staff and volunteers carry out their great work and so much more each and every day of the year and respond to rescues 24 hours a day, all year round.
“The exhibition is a great chance for people to learn more and we encourage everyone to pop in and see us at the hospital as well.”
The exhibition kicked off on November 7 with an official opening attended by children, volunteers and Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson.
Sue Ashton another volunteer said the koala hospital is a great place that tourists and locals enjoy regularly.
“It is always lovely to find out where our visitors are from,” Ms Ashton said.
“They come from all over the country and the world to see what we do at the hospital and being able to educate people about koalas is why all our volunteers love coming back.
The exhibition is on display at Port Macquarie Library until November 30.
The Hospital’s work began in 1973 when Jean Starr, a local from Port Macquarie, was joined by other concerned people to form the Port Macquarie Koala Preservation Society.
In 1975, with the help of the local community service club APEX, a small, one room hospital was built on the current site at the Macquarie Nature Reserve in Lord Street, Port Macquarie.
In September, 1986, the famous Australian country and western singer, John Williamson, visited the Hospital.
He was so moved by the plight of the koala he wrote the song, Goodbye Blinky Bill, which became known internationally as a song about koalas.
He donated the proceeds from the song to the Koala Hospital and an intensive care wing, a treatment room, storeroom and office were added to the Hospital.
The intensive care wing was named in honour of John Williamson.
By the early 2000s, the original hospital buildings were deteriorating due to termite damage so in 2005, the current hospital was built with a large treatment room, a viewing window, office, souvenir kiosk and a dayroom for staff.
Two more intensive care units were added to make a total of eight inside the building and six outside.
The Hospital also redesigned and extended many of the outside yards enabling the holding capacity for sick, injured or orphaned wild koalas to be greatly increased.
2013 the Koala Hospital hosted the first National Koala Conference in Port Macquarie for academics, government agencies, veterinarians and koala rehabilitators.
This was followed in 2017 with a second koala conference with future conferences planned for every three to four years.
In 2014 the Koala Hospital purchased a 265 acre property on Maria River Road, Port Macquarie to be managed as a mix of conservation habitat and to start a koala food tree plantation.
Currently the Hospital has around 4,000 koala food trees growing.
The goal is for the plantation’s leaf harvesting to meet the feeding needs of Koala Hospital patients, and to provide food for local zoos and caring facilities.
In 2018, as well as caring for up to 250 wild koalas a year, the Koala Hospital is an educational facility sharing knowledge in school programs, with various organisations and with the general public.
The Koala Hospital hosts veterinary undergraduates, vet nurses and work experience school students as well as overseas volunteers.
Research into wild koala diseases in Australia was pioneered at the Koala Hospital in the early 1980s in collaboration with the University of Sydney.
Over the years it has expanded to include University Queensland, University Sunshine Coast, Australian Museum, Murdoch University, Federation University and Bristol University in the UK.
The Koala Hospital offers a 24 hour Australia-wide advisory service on matters concerning wild koalas and has recently extended this work to international zoos in Europe, Israel and the UK.
The Koala Hospital’s staff and volunteers are available for koala advice and rescue, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
At 3pm every day except Christmas Day, there is a free guided tour around the exhibition yards of the Hospital.
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