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Home > In the Media 2008


Koala summit offers a chance to move forward

News source:  The Noosa Journal

18 December 2008

By Liz Moore

Koala summit offers a chance to move forwardIN the same week as leading koala scientists were called to Canberra to discuss the national koala situation with representatives from Peter Garrett's office, local experts met at Council's Tewantin chambers to discuss the koala issue in this region.

Called by Bob Abbott after reports in The Noosa Journal about the declining koala population, last week's meeting brought together some of the area's most experienced koala rescuers and researchers and gave them a chance to present their views to council.

"I came away feeling a little positive that there was going to be more research done on the local koalas," said Noosa Koala Squad founder and vet Mark Powell after the two-and-a-half hour discussion.  "My overall idea of the health of the local population and the prospects for them being healthy in the long-term, hasn't really changed, but it was good to be able to get the message across.

"We really need more information about the local population before we can make any decisions about their future management."

Australian Wildlife Hospital chief vet Jon Hanger agreed.

"The first step is to figure out the health and sustainability of the population, then you need to put up the dollars to deliver the solutions," he said.  "Council cannot rely on the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to do it. The EPA has a hopeless record in terms of koala conservation or any other environmental conservation.

"Council may not have statutory responsibility but they certainly have a moral obligation.  They are the ones most closely linked to approving development on koala and other habitat."

Koala rescuer Jo Brown hoped council would focus on this responsibility in the aftermath of the meeting.

"I'd like to see Sunshine Coast Council now put in some concrete procedures," he said.  "I'd like to see more accountability.  I feel developers have to be monitored and policed a lot better."

The Noosa meeting came just days after the Gold Coast City Council announced an injection of $20 million to translocate a large group of koalas from their Coomera homes to safer, studied habitat on the western side of the highway. 

Dr Hanger said this is the cost of years of neglect.

"The solutions to these problems are not rocket science, they are just going to cost a fair bit of money," he said.




Australia Zoo vets perform some possum magic

News source:  The Courier-Mail

17 December 2008

By Sophie Elsworth

Australia Zoo vets perform some possum magicA LITTLE brushtail possum joey weighing only 105g has survived a brutal mauling by a cat which left her riddled with wounds and puncture marks.

The tiny marsupial, dubbed Jackie, was taken to the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast after she was found lying on the floor of a Caboolture garage.

The two-month-old joey was forced to fend for herself, as her mother was nowhere to be found.

The orphan was put into the hands of veterinarian Dr Claude Lacasse and will be one of dozens of animals to visit the new hospital during the festive season.

Already the $5 million state-of-the-art facility, which opened last month, has cared for hundreds of patients.

Director of veterinary services and research Dr Jon Hanger said the Christmas and New Year period was one of the busiest times.

The hospital was open around the clock helping sick and injured animals from southeast Queensland and parts of northern NSW.

"It's a busy time for us, particularly with trauma cases, because a lot of animals are more active and moving further distances than they would otherwise," he said.

"The second half of the year is our really busy time, as the days get longer and the weather warms up."

"It's breeding season for most animals, so there are lots of things in nests."

"Reptiles are coming out and sunbaking on the roads, so we see a lot of blue-tongue lizards, goannas and those sorts of things."

"And it also coincides with juvenile or sub-adult koalas dispersing from their maternal home range."

Dr Hanger said patient numbers at the new hospital were "steadily increasing".

More than 6000 animals have been treated this year.

He has warned Queenslanders to take care over summer to avoid accidents with animals, as almost a quarter of patients are road-trauma victims.

"If people have to travel at night, try to avoid travelling through bushland because a lot of our species are nocturnal," Dr Hanger said.

"A lot of the large pythons cross the road at night."




Schoolyard Warriors

News source: Eco News

7 December 2008

By Greg Hardwick

Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors set the challenge in August to local schools on the Sunshine Coast to make a difference in their schoolyard by implementing an environmental project at their school.

Blackall Range Independent School and Chancellor State College (Secondary campus) both received Champion School in the two categories for their projects which involved green initiatives including recycling and re-using programs, permaculture gardens, energy efficiency and safe habitats.

Brenda Baker, Health and Wellbeing Teacher at Chancellor State College said the students were ecstatic to find out they won in the secondary category.

"They have been working on this and other conservation projects in the school throughout the year and they’re excited about showcasing their efforts," Brenda said.

"The students involved in this project are very committed to environmental conservation and they wanted to use their entry in the Challenge as an opportunity to show other students how easy it is to make a positive impact on the environment."

Students from both schools attended Australia Zoo on Steve Irwin Day 15 November, to celebrate the difference they have made to the environment. Students had the opportunity to learn even more about conservation through the numerous activities that took place on Steve Irwin Day.

"The students have a great respect for Steve Irwin and what he achieved for the environment in his lifetime and they feel privileged to have been invited to Australia Zoo to be part of the celebrations on Steve Irwin Day."

The students at Chancellor State College now want to take their efforts to a new level to maintain their reputation as Champion School when the Schoolyard Warriors Conservation Challenge opens in 2009.

Schools across Queensland will be able to enter their environmental project next year to be in the running to win some incredible prizes. Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors thank our young people for making a huge difference!

For more information on the 2009 Schoolyard Warriors Conservation Challenge, call Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors on 1800 334 350.

About Blackall Range Independent School’s Schoolyard Warriors project:

For their project, students in the upper primary at Blackall Range Independent School decided to name four different parts of the school to reflect the different requirements to enhance each of these four different habitats. These are: Honey Mountain, Possum Ridge, Organic Green Funky Seed Farm and Frog Gulley.

All four habitats provide safe environments to the wildlife living within these areas. Other green activities that have taken place within the school include possum and bird nest boxes, recycling and compost bins, worm farms, permaculture gardens, shade house and frog breeding ponds.

The teachers, staff and parents, who form the backbone of this school, recognise the contribution of young people as they work towards their future.

Principal Russell Walker says "it is a very exciting time to be involved in this school, as we expand and produce an eager generation of environmentally aware students."

Student coordinator, Kevin Kempter added that "this has been a terrific learning experience and a pleasure to be outdoors."

About Chancellor State Secondary College Schoolyard Warriors project:

For their project, students from Chancellor State College involved in the ‘Can I Make a Difference to Our Planet’ curriculum elective (years 7-9) focussed their efforts on reducing the school’s carbon footprint. The students have been collecting base-line data to measure future energy use and to take steps towards reducing it. School electricity bills as well as student enrolment and staff numbers were collected in order to determine the electricity use per person per year at the school. The class has also taken on an education role within the school, highlighting the need to switch off appliances to save energy.

Year eight classes have also taken on the role of school recycling collectors and encouraging other students to eliminate the need of unnecessary printing and using paper on both sides before putting it in the class recycling bins.

Since 2004, the students have also planted over 1000 flowering native and gum trees as well as butterfly vines. 500 of these trees were planted in 2008. The students believe that every little effort works towards protecting the environment and asks what others are waiting for to do the same!




Abbot in call for koala summit

News source:  The Noosa Journal

27 November 2008

By Liz Moore

NOOSA: Mayor Bob Abbot has called a crisis meeting on December 10 to tackle Noosa’s rapidly dwindling koala population.
The round-table meeting with all interested parties comes after a campaign by The Noosa Journal highlighting the sad plight of Noosa’s remaining koalas.

Some experts believe that there are fewer than 15 koalas left in Noosa Heads and no more than 50 in the rest of the former shire.

"I’m keen to see what comes out of the meeting," Mr Abbot said this week. "This is about establishing precisely what the issues are and finding out what we can do to resolve them. "

"There are things you can do and things that are not going to be possible. This has been an issue for a long time. It’s about making it happen."
Mr Abbot also admitted The Noosa Journal’s coverage had been an eye-opener for him.

"I wasn't aware of the requirement for release," he said, referring to the state-administered law that wildlife be released within five kilometres of where it was found, regardless of major threats, including roads, dogs and habitat loss.

Invited parties include Noosa Koala Squad founders Mark and Jane Powell; long-time local koala campaigners Isobel Pert and Mark Nichols as well as Jon Hanger, Gail Gipp and Carolyn Beaton from the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

Jon Hanger, chief vet at the Australian Wildlife Hospital, welcomed the meeting but said all levels of government needed to realise that it was going to cost millions of dollars to resolve the crisis.
"It's much easier to protect them when the population's at carrying capacity," he said. "When it gets to this stage, it's not just the cost of assessing the viability of the current population simple things such as fencing are expensive."

"That's why we need the commitment from the outset. Council and state government need to be clear about whether it’s just a political stunt or something more serious. I imagine people like Bob Abbot are serious."
Dr Hanger said he would table that the first step should be to determine the extent of the remaining habitat and the health of the remaining population.
"We need a snapshot of what the status is now," Dr Hanger explained. "This will remove any guesswork."
After that, Dr Hanger said, the results would be clear on whether the Noosa population was sustainable or not.
"If you have a population that is sustainable, then you must work to minimise motor vehicle strike and dog attack. Wildlife-proof fences are essential," Dr Hanger said.

If the snapshot proves they are unsustainable, as many experts have argued in The Noosa Journal in the past week, then Dr Hanger said Noosa should look at the trans-location of animals.
He would not be drawn on whether the Noosa North Shore might be a viable option because, he said, he wasn’t familiar with the soil quality and other factors affecting it's suitability as a koala habitat.
Someone who will raise the subject of relocation to Noosa North Shore, or other alternative settings, at the meeting will be long-time Noosa naturalist, Isobel Pert.

After 20 years of picking koala bodies off many of Noosa’s roads or from the mouths of local dogs, Mrs Pert believes it is cruel to leave them in Noosa where they can't escape cars, dogs and habitat loss.
Responsible for the many "koala food tree" signs you see through the former shire and the heartbreaking picture diary in The Noosa Journal last week, Isobel is not afraid to confront the issues head-on.
"It is no good bringing up arguments like gene pools, corridors, natural dispersal and so on," she said. "This is absolutely fine for isolated koala colonies but, let’s face facts, Noosa koalas are governed by human interference from all angles whether roads, tree destruction or dogs.
I know the North Shore relocation proposal is controversial but what we're doing now obviously isn't working."
The December 10 meeting will be at the Council’s Noosa office. The Noosa Journal will be there.




Bindi tongue-ties Jackson

News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

22 November 2008

By Jamie Dunn

Jamie DunnI was so proud to receive my invitation to the opening of the brand new Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo.

Of course, you must remember that little ears are always listening and the mere mention of Australia Zoo on the phone sparked 11-year-old Jackson’s interest and, like every other kid his age when he hears the name Steve Irwin, he blurted out, “Can I come?”

Once again the Father of the Year (me) instantly agreed and I arranged for Jackson to come as my partner.

He didn't stop talking all the way down Steve Irwin Way. He didn't stop talking as we walked across the car park towards the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

He did stop talking, however, when Terri and Bindi Irwin stepped from behind the door and greeted him with a big smile and a "Hi, thanks for coming".

His brush with fame didn’t stop there, either.He spent most of his time talking to the Veronicas and unknowingly stood in line for fish sticks with NLP leader Laurence Springborg.




Snapped & spotted

News source:  The Weekender

20 November 2008




Animal House

News source:  Sunshine Coast Sunday

16 November 2008

The new $5 million Australian Wildlife Hospital - next door to Australia Zoo - opened yesterday on Steve Irwin Day.

The state-of-the-art veterinary facility fulfils Steve's dream to provide the ultimate in humanitarian aid for thousands of native animals injured by human activity.

Loss of habitat, road accidents, domestic pet attacks, fire and disease bring over 5000 animals to the hospital each year.

As around 70% of patients are victims of road accidents or domestic pet attacks, it's not hard for Australian Wildlife Hospital manager Gail Gipp to see where the demand for medical attention comes from.

When the original hospital - a converted avocado packing shed - opened in 2004, Mrs Gipp and her staff imagined a slow increase in demand and many years in the temporary facility.

Instead, the hospital had "massive growth very quickly", Mrs Gipp said.

"People just get in their car and drive here from northern NSW and fly animals from places as far away as Gladstone and Mackay.

The facility now employs 28 staff, including seven veterinarians, and has a network of up to 70 volunteers.

It contains purpose-built operating rooms, an intensive care room, laboratory, hi-tech X-ray and CAT-scan rooms, patient admittance bays and nursery for koalas, echidnas and other orphaned wildlife.

The last five years have been very intense times for Mrs Gipp and her staff.

Some nights, she didn't get any sleep at all, she said, but now the new hospital had opened, night nurses have been employed for the first time.

The wheels were set in motion for the new facility late one afternoon in 2005.

A customer delivered an injured Noisy Mynah bird for treatment at the old hospital, and asked if he could stay and see what went on.

"A few hours later (I had forgotten he was there, we were so busy), he said to me, "This is amazing, what do you want?" Mrs Gipp said. 

"I told him I wanted a dollar from every rate-payer to keep the facility going."

The next day, she was advised the customer was then Federal Minister for revenue, Mal Brough, who later lodged a submission to the Federal Government for funding.  The result was a $2.5 million Federal contribution to the new hospital, which was matched by Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.

Mrs Gipp's determined quest to open the eyes of the public about animal welfare continues.

"It's all about education, and I'll never stop doing that", she said.

"We love donations, but if someone said to me, "would you take a million dollars (for the hospital) or get 20 people to change their lives and do something positive for this planet? I'd take the 20 people any day."

Four daily tours are offered at the hospital so the public can view operations, specialist medical treatment, rehabilitation, and nursery areas first hand.

They can also gain a better insight into how their daily activities can impact on native wildlife.

Tours of the hospital are offered daily at 9.30 am, 11.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm.




Steve's mum Lyn inspires hospital

News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

15 November 2008

By Blythe Seinor

If there was any doubt about who inspired the new Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo, a quote in the foyer makes it crystal clear.

"She was the greatest wildlife rehabilitator in the world, a true pioneer. She was my legend and in my heart she will live forever."

The Crocodile Hunter's words about his late mother Lyn were unveiled during a packed opening ceremony at the Steve Irwin Day celebrations at Australia Zoo.

Terri, Bindi and little Robert Irwin were there, along with the zoo's general manager Wes Mannion, a swag of state and federal politicians and celebrities including Lisa Origliasso from the Veronicas.

Steve's dad Bob, who was at the centre of controversy in September over an alleged falling out with Terri, was also there but sat three rows back from the rest of his family and was not mentioned in any official speeches.

He was taken on a tour of the facility inspired by his late wife and seemed genuinely impressed by what he saw.

Terri told the crowd the hospital had been built in memory of Steve's mum Lyn, who is featured in several large pictures around the hospital.

"That passion and empathy Steve had was what Lyn was all about," she said.

Wes Mannion welled up as he spoke about the day his best mate Steve took him to the old avocado packing shed on the site and said he wanted to build an animal hospital in memory of his mum.

"They had a strong bond, I'd never seen anything like it," Wes said.

"They were born on the same day and felt the same passion... that unadulterated love came from Lyn."

The former packing shed operated as an animal hospital from 2004 until it was replaced by the new $5 million facility which is expected to treat 6000 patients a year.

After the ceremony, Terri said she believed Lyn would be very proud of the facility.

"She would run it better than any of us, it would be even cleaner, she was an amazing woman," Terri said.

The opening coincided with Steve Irwin Day, which attracted thousands of fans.

"He took a valuable message and made it entertaining and profitable, then used the profits responsibly," San Diego's Beau Parks said.

Australia Zoo will contribute $2 million each year to the hospital's running costs.




Ali daughter honours Steve Irwin

News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

14 November 2008

By Blythe Seinor

Khaliah Ali with, Murray from Wildlife Warriors, Cody the Koala and Jacob Wertheimer. Photo: Cade Mooney/179415With a father who is regarded as the greatest boxer of all time, it’s fair to say Khaliah Ali comes from tough stock.

But she is an undeniable softie when it comes to animals.

Her eyes welled with tears yesterday as she described what she had seen at the new wildlife hospital at Australia Zoo.

“I can’t even pick (a favourite), it’s impossible,” she said.

“You want to say the koalas, but I’m in love with the rhinoceros that let me pet him on his back.

“Then there was the lemur that was so greedy he slapped the other one in the face when he took the banana, and the elephants were so large and gentle. That’s the kind of day it’s been.”

Khaliah, her husband Spencer Wertheimer and their son Jacob made the long-haul flight from Philadelphia to the Sunshine Coast this week to take part in tomorrow’s opening celebrations of the hospital, which will coincide with Steve Irwin Day.

The trip is part of her role as the US Ambassador for Wildlife Warriors.

She said she initially wanted to become involved in the organisation after she heard Bindi Irwin speak in the wake of her father Steve's death.

“I was so moved because being the child of boxer Muhammad Ali I know what it’s like to live with your family’s legacy,” she said yesterday.

“Certainly this cause is the most laudable and of the highest order.

“I remember picking up the phone and feeling in my heart there is nothing I won’t do to help Wildlife Warriors.”

She said she regarded Steve Irwin as one of the great leaders of our time.

“Who Steve was in my eyes was Dr King or Ghandi,” she said.

“He was somebody who taught people to love where there was fear and taught them tolerance and educated them where there was hatred.

Khaliah said she planned to return to the Sunshine Coast every year to play a part in Steve Irwin Day.

At 1300sqm, the new Australian Wildlife Hospital is the largest of its kind in the world.

It cost $5 million to build and will treat more than 5000 “patients” each year.

The Federal Government contributed $2.5m towards the project, with the rest funded by Australia Zoo and fundraising efforts.




Tommy's a turtle who's very lucky

News source:  Gladstone Observer

15 November 2008

Roslyn Goldsmith, pictured with her grandson Darcy Scott, releases Tommy the Turtle back into the wild at Tannum Sands beachLITTLE green turtle "Tommy" is lucky to be facing another day.

He owes his life to local girl Corinne Kuiper after being found injured and distressed at Boyne Island's Lillies Beach on November 1.

The turtle had become entangled in discarded fishing line which was wrapped around its front flipper and continued into its mouth and digestive tract.

After undergoing a course of antibiotics, a few x-rays and a bit of tender loving care, the turtle was yesterday released back to the freedom of the open sea after being nursed back to health at the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

The release of Tommy at Tannum Sands Beach was undertaken by Queensland Parks and Wildlife.

It was a heart-warming moment witnessing the turtle being returned to his natural marine environment.

And if not for litter this would never have happened.

The successful rescue and release of the green turtle, nicknamed Tommy by the wildlife hospital, has prompted a reminder by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all fishermen and others to pick up their litter in marine areas.

EPA Gladstone District Manager Dave Orgill said although Tommy got his happy ending, there were many other marine animals that don't.

Mr Orgill said litter, such as fishing line or plastic bags can be deadly to marine animals.

"Please pick up after yourself if you're fishing or just enjoying a day out on the coast," Mr Orgill said.

"This is a good news story, but it took the efforts of volunteers, wildlife carers and EPA staff to save this turtle and release it again at Tannum Sands.

"If people pick up their rubbish as they are leaving an area this kind of incident can be easily averted.

"We are grateful for the efforts of volunteers from the community and the Australian Wildlife Hospital in helping to get this turtle back to where it belongs."

It was while walking her dog that Corinne found the green turtle and which she promptly reported to the EPA Strandings Hotline.

Following a response by EPA rangers, the turtle was transported to the Australian Wildlife Hospital by truck driver and wildlife carer Jim Goldsmith.




Koala mapping plan to save our natural wonder


News source:  The Noosa Journal

6 November 2008

NOOSA: Coast Councillor and former Sunshine Coast Environment Council president Keryn Jones has joined the chorus of concern for the future of Noosa’s dying koalas, calling the situation ``horrifying’’ and promising a push for action.
The Noosa Journal’s special report last week revealed the shocking state of our dwindling, disease-ravaged koala population, with experts predicting the entire former shire now a biosphere would be extinct of all koalas within just three years without drastic action.
Ms Jones this week said the council was undertaking koala habitat mapping down the southern end of the Coast, and she would push for the same to be carried out in Noosa quickly.
The division three councillor agreed development was ripping into already fragmented Koala habitats and the iconic creatures which have long wooed tourists to Noosa’s National Park were doomed without help.
``It’s just horrifying. I was just at the wildlife hospital at Australia Zoo and they have over 55 koalas in there right now. It’s incredibly depressing,’’ she said.
Mayor Bob Abbot said Noosa already has a Koala Action Plan but this was now being expanded and improved.
``There are very real issues here with regards to koalas trying to survive in urban areas. The pressure on them is significant,’’ Mr Abbot said.
``But there are discrepencies over numbers between the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).’’
The Mayor said several mating pairs of koalas were introduced into Noosa National Park in the 1950s or 60s but it wasn’t known exactly how many koalas we started off with and how many have been lost.
``Part of what we are doing now is getting all the different agencies together so that we are all working with the same numbers and information.’’
Part of the work being undertaken is to establish a wildlife corridor from Noosa National Park to Cooloola National Park, going through Weyba.’’
Experts last week told The Noosa Journal there were less than 15 of the cuddly marsupials left in Noosa National Park, and no more than 50 left within the former Noosa Shire boundaries.
Premier Anna Bligh was this week sticking to promises her government was looking out for the species. However she was short on details.
She would not promise special action for Noosa a biosphere reserve.
``I appreciate there is a crisis in koala numbers in South East Queensland, which is why I’ve established a top-level taskforce of scientific experts, conservation groups, developers, the EPA and local councils to recommend further action,’’ Ms Bligh said.




Life is good for little Lilly


News source:  The Noosa Journal

6 November 2008

Life is good for little LillyELEVEN-month-old Lilly might be an orphan but she has her new mother wrapped around her little paw.  She simply waves her over with it when she wants her attention, and her little sister, Christine, has learnt to do the same.

"There's a lot of copycat behaviour that goes on," their mother, Carolyn Beaton, who is the media consultant for the Australian Wildlife Hospital, said.  "It's funny, they learn so much from each other.  They were very happy together from the start."

While Christine looked to Lilly as a mother figure almost immediately, it took the older koala joey some time to adjust and let her surrogate sister know whe was not her mother.

"They had their first argument on the way home from the hospital.  Christine won that one but Lilly soon found her confidence."

Not before she spent her first four days in her new basket in Carolyn's Noosa Heads' home, unsure and uncomfortable in her new environment.

Lilly arrived at the Australian Wildlife Hospital in Beerwah in June when she was six months of age and weighed only 436 grams.  She has developed a strong bond with seven-month-old fellow orphan Christine, who Carolyn started to care for two weeks before Lilly.



Lucky koala released into Mary Valley wilderness

News source:  The Gympie Times

5 November 2008

AS the cage door swung open under the shade of a large eucalypt on Kevin Ingersole's Mary Valley property, Luther the koala gingerly emerged and climbed out onto his new home.

At first he slipped as his claws struggled to grasp the rough bark of the tree and then the helping hand of his surrogate mother, Anika Lehmann supported him as he climbed up the tree to his new life back in the wild.

Mrs Lehmann works as a koala carer at the Caboolture Koala Care & Rescue Inc and first met Luther in October 2007 after Gympie-based Wildlife Carer Paula Rowlands contacted her for help with Luther.

The then baby koala was found alone on Hasthorpe Road in the Mary Valley without his mum.

"He weighed 580 grams and could fit in the palm of your hand," Mrs Rowlands said.

Not being an expert in koalas she called in the help of Mrs Lehmann.

"He still needed warmth at that age, so we kept him in a humidicrib and later on a heat pad," Mrs Lehmann said. "Luther loved his milk formula until we weaned him when he was nearing the two-kilogram mark.

"By that time he was tucking into his leaf, freshly provided to him every day.

"He had a preference for blue gum," she said. The koala carer said when he reached 2.5kg he was moved to "rainforest", a facility at the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

In the rainforest the hand-raised joeys are "dehumanised" and learn to live with other koalas. "Usually there are 6 to 10 young koalas in there at any one time," Mrs Lehmann said.

"We can monitor their behaviour and decide when they are ready to be released into the wild," she said.

Luther's release was delayed after he contracted an eye infection and the onset of the breeding season.

"We know that young koalas, especially males, dispersing from their mothers usually have a hard time finding their own territory. Because we wanted Luther to have the best start in life, we decided he would have to wait until the end of the breeding season."

The carer said koalas can travel up to 20 kilometres trying to find a place to settle down.

"We can only cross our fingers and hope now," she said.




No home among the gum trees

News source:  The Weekender

30 October 2008

By Elizabeth Moore

The Weekender - 30 October 2008The Coast boasts the world’s largest wildlife hospital. But what is a source of great pride also offers a chilling insight into the state of the Coast’s, and the country’s, landscape ...

It looks like a postcard, except mother and baby are about to die. Ten-month-old Brahman isn’t so much cuddling his mum as clinging desperately on to the final moments of their shattered lives. He dies first, on the operating table with an oxygen mask strapped to his little grey head. His mum, Mango, survives another three hours of surgery, which treats a ruptured bowel, fractured right femur and intensive infection from the rupture, before suffering a fatal cerebral haemorrhage.

The statistics will list the cause of their deaths as HBC — hit by
car — but the real devil’s in the detail. Whistler was a big healthy boy. He was the only one of six koalas to survive separate attacks by the same couple of dogs on an acreage property near the Gold Coast. A strong soul, Whistler spent months in treatment and rehabilitation for shocking injuries to his hind legs. He persevered, winning hearts as he went, eventually making a full recovery ready for the ultimate goal — to return to the wild.

Three weeks after his release, Whistler was attacked by the same dogs (current laws demand wildlife is released within five kilometres of where it is found, regardless of roads, development or domestic animals). This time, there was no chance of recovery. He died at the scene. The cause of Freya’s nauseating wounds, including a shattered jaw, severe abdominal injury and the loss of her left eye will be listed as tree felling.

Sounds awful enough, but what it doesn’t say is that her seven-year-old body was found broken and bleeding when a bulldozer slammed her tree-top home to the ground to make way for a housing development in Kallangur. Nor does it tell you tree felling, car smashes and dog attacks are all measures of the same overriding issue — habitat destruction.

Add to this stress the fact Queensland’s koalas are all infected by a retrovirus that causes lymphoma and leukemia among much of the population and it gives you an idea of the daily devastation seen at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah, beside Australia Zoo. And that’s just one species.

Built in honour of Steve Irwin’s mother, Lyn, the facility is open 24 hours a day to every kind of Australian native fauna. In just a few hours the vets, nurses and carers treat two pelicans, three flying foxes, a carpet python, one finch, a blue-tongue lizard, a kangaroo, a short-necked turtle and two more critically ill koalas. It’s a typical day.

On the morning of my visit, hospital manager Gail Gipp, who still lives in the old makeshift hospital that was once an avocado packing shed during her 10-day shift, has been up since 4am. An adult male koala, Matt, was rushed to emergency after being found on the side of the road. As is usual, the driver who hit him did not stop. Thankfully, the next vehicle did. Gail estimates Matt is three, but the usual tooth measure is off limits as his mouth is too badly traumatised to tell.

Head veterinarian Jon Hanger finds five skull fractures after X-rays, all miraculously missing Matt’s brain, and a right clavicle fracture to add to his ruptured eyeball and a lacerated tongue. “His whole head’s pretty much fractured so, basically, he’s got the headache from hell,” Gail says, seeking some levity among the heartbreaking reality. It’s one she is only too familiar with after 30 years of wildlife care, including six with the hospital.

Sadly, Matt will later have to be euthanased by staff. If conservation has a frontline, this is it. Horrific injuries, dead bodies, disfigurations, lacerations and disease mount up daily, as do the orphans and mourning mothers. This year alone, the hospital — which officially opens on November 15, Steve Irwin Day, and is the world’s largest wildlife facility — has treated 6000 patients. It is a war zone, but the casualties have no letters to send home, no words to impart, no tombstones in memorial. They are dying in irreplaceable droves and most of us just keep on driving.

“I know for myself and Jon, there’s a lot more anger now,” Gail says. “Our geographical range is getting far greater. We had a lady drive up from Victoria with a sick koala the other day. Good on her for caring enough to do so, but how sad it had to happen. That she had nowhere else to go. I have anger and frustration at the lack of funds injected into conservation. We seem determined to destroy everything and that will eventually include ourselves, because we are, in the end, just another animal.”

Remarkably, for every frustration, Gail also finds some light. “You have to find a way to laugh and I do think it’s getting better,” she says. “It wasn’t that long ago you felt you couldn’t tell anybody you were a conservationist because you were labelled a radical greenie hippie. In the last 10 years, and more so in the last five, people’s perceptions have changed. It’s OK to be green now. It’s a remarkable turnaround to have people rescuing venomous snakes these days. I think that’s certainly changed. Education is also changing so there is hope with the next generation, but it’s definitely not with us. We’ve failed miserably.”

There might also be hope with public access to the new state-of-the-art facility, where people can take one of four daily tours and get up close and personal (as was Steve’s way) with the very real damage taking place in our back yard. The education and conference facilities also have a touch of Steve’s extroverted genius about them, offering an unimpeded, uncensored view of the main operating theatre and treatment room.

“If you don’t see it, you don’t care about it. Our biggest problem now is the extraordinary extra amount of work involved with a facility of this size,” Gail says, pointing out the hi-tech CAT scan and X-ray facilities that feed off the same corridor as the intensive care unit and the reptile and bird rooms. “There’s a guilt factor. You think, ‘Can I do more?’ We’re a Band-Aid but we need a bandage now.”

The weight of her words rings true as the flood of afternoon patients pile in. In just four hours, the hospital will treat another pelican, two possums, a noisy miner, a sugar glider, magpie, adult eastern grey kangaroo, ibis and another three critically injured koalas. The postcard images of baby Brahman and mother Mango seem quite sickening now, replaced by the fact all these animals will be lucky just to see tomorrow — let alone what remains of their home among the gum trees — ever again.

What can you do? Organise a tour of the hospital through 1300 369 652 or donate through




Dying breed - tragedy of Noosa's lost koalas

News source:  The Noosa Journal

30 October 2008

By Elizabeth Moore

The Noosa Journal - 30 October 2008

NOOSA’S koala population will be extinct by 2010.
That is the dire prediction from some of the state’s leading koala experts who say there are fewer than 15 koalas left in Noosa Heads, and no more than 50 in the rest of the former shire.
Gail Gipp, Australian Wildlife Hospital manager, estimated the last 15 koalas in Noosa Heads will disappear by the 2010 and gave the wider population just one more year before the entire region becomes extinct of the native species.
Deborah Tabart, chief executive officer of the Australian Koala Foundation, agreed.
Having watched 25,000 koalas die across south-east Queensland in the past 10 years, Deborah says Noosa’s koalas have suffered from the same habitat loss and human impact as the rest of the south-east Queensland population.
Noosa vet and founder of the Noosa Koala Squad, Mark Powell, has been keeping records of the local koala population for the past 25 years. He told The Noosa Journal that our national park koalas were ``doomed’’.
The population had declined, he said, to between ``25 and 30 per cent’’ of its natural level and said the damage was irreversible.
Dr Powell said that while he used to treat 50 koalas a year, he has only seen nine in the past 12 months.
``The year of the Peregian Springs development was probably the year we saw most koalas,’’ he said.
He said other developments had also caused severe damage as they replaced prime koala habitat.
``Nowadays, the Noosa Koala Squad really just provides an ambulance service,’’ Dr Powell said. ``We are left as monitors of a declining population.
``I can’t see a solution in terms of the remaining koalas. Unless you took all the people out of Noosa.’’
Dr Powell said there were possibly ``no fertile females’’ left in Noosa.
``In the past 10 years, I can count on one hand the number of young I’ve seen. It’s very sad. We get very excited when we see one.’’
He also revealed that the remaining population were ``all diseased’’, either with Chlamydia or koala retrovirus, an AIDS-like virus specific to koalas that can cause leukaemia, lymphoma and other bone-marrow disease. This was largely due to the stress humans have placed them under.
``There’s more disease among them because these koalas are stressed. The population is fragmented and the threats from cars and dogs are great,’’ Dr Powell said.
``I don’t think there’s anything that we can do to add to the population. If you brought healthy koalas in you’d be consigning them to catching the diseases the koalas have and, to my mind, it’s not a viable habitat for koalas. They need more area and they need better habitat.’’
Wildlife expert and the Australian Wildlife Hospital’s head veterinarian, Jon Hanger, who has been studying the koala retrovirus for the past 15 years, argued it won’t be good enough to blame disease for their demise.
``In terms of a species, they are quite a robust animal. They can survive hideous injuries and quite bad infections, but koala retrovirus is a massive threat to koalas that is compounding a massive threat caused by habitat loss and fragmentation,’’ Dr Hanger said.
``We can’t do an awful lot about the fact that they’re all infected with this virus but we can bloody well take seriously the fact that we’re pushing them to extinction.
``And it won’t be good enough just to blame extinction on a virus, because we’ve pushed them to a point where the population can’t even deal with that virus.
``We’re putting such pressure on the population in terms of habitat and population and edge effects that they will have absolutely no chance of recovering from a virus that’s in its active phase, or in its recent infection phase, in the species.’’
Australian Koala Foundation Deborah Tabart called on the community to take action.
``It can be rebuilt if developers, politicians, truck drivers, businesspeople, mums and dads, the whole community, get behind it,’’ Ms Tabart said.
She said Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot needed to introduce a koala management plan for Little Cove and one for the wider Noosa area. She encouraged the community to report sightings, establish each koala as an individual, and keep track of their progress.
``Noosa needs a recovery plan. Its first step will be to stop the deaths, then stabilise it, then rebuild.’’
She said Myall Lakes, in New South Wales, is proof it can happen but said it takes ``a concerted effort’’ from all members of the public and business community.
Dr Hanger and his team, who work from what is now the world’s largest wildlife hospital at Beerwah, have established an ecological services unit to work with developers and government bodies to minimise development’s impact on wildlife.
``In the first instance, that means being present when the bulldozers go in and the land clearing’s occurring. Really trying to take the so-called wildlife spotter-catching game (which rescues wildlife that lives in land about to be bulldozed), to a much higher standard,’’ Dr Hanger said.
``The level at which this is working at the moment is very, very tokenistic. The spotter will go in, might catch a koala and a couple of possums but 99 per cent of the fauna will still be killed.
``We’re trying to apply a lot more effort to it, with a lot more pre-clearing trapping, and getting more than 10 times the animals out of it.’’
Dr Hanger highlighted a recent project that, in the first stage, saw 870 animals rescued from clearing.
``Just as importantly, the service is trying to establish dialogue and consultation with developers early in the piece, even as early as the design phase, and looking at the block of land and discussing the number of dwellings suitable if they want to retain some of the ecological value of the land and achieve a higher price for fewer houses,’’ Dr Hanger said.
``At the moment, what is so upsetting is developers want to get as many houses as possible on a block of land and the way of doing things nowadays is to clearfell everything, build the houses, then plant the trees, so it’s effectively moonscaping, then we build.
``The government’s got to put some pressure on developers and say `you can’t do that anymore’. You can’t completely destroy every ecological value of that site and we’ve got to design our developments to be a lot more eco-friendly. People have been talking about this for years.’’



Carolyn cares for her orphans


News source:  The Noosa Journal

30 October 2008

By Elizabeth Moore

The Noosa Journal - 30 October 2008There are two koalas with a hopeful future in Noosa but they’re not in the wild. Yet.
The two orphaned joeys, seven-month-old Christine and 13-month-old Lilly, are being raised by local wildlife carer, and Australian Wildlife Hospital’s media manager, Carolyn Beaton, in her Noosa Heads home.
She has swapped grevilleas for gum trees in her once-decorous living room while half of the garage is dedicated to a ``koala gym’’ where the pretty pair learns the basics of how to cope and climb in the wild.
``They are very in sync,’’ Carolyn said. ``Their high-energy time is in the afternoon when, for two or three hours every day they run around, jump all over the place, climb, and just play their little hearts out.
``My husband has set up a great jungle gym of tree branches and ropes and they love every minute.
``The rest of the time you’ll find them asleep in their basket in the tree (in the living room), which they share.’’
The koalas have also developed a taste for walks in the garden.
``My husband started taking them for walks in the garden and they love it. If he’s near her, Lilly will literally reach out and tap his arm, or climb on to him, when she wants to go for her evening walk.’’
Both babies are doing well, but this was not always the case. Christine’s story is a true tale of woe and a reminder of the tragic loss of Noosa’s famed koala, Harrold, who was attacked by a dog in Noosa National Park, found crying with maggots in his wound, before finally dying with a gum leaf in his mouth. Only his bronze statue at Little Cove remains.
Christine came from Elanora on the Gold Coast and was on her mother, Jules’s back when a dog attacked. The duo had entered the acreage property to reach one of their favourite food trees, a Eucalyptus tereticornis, commonly known as the Queensland blue gum, but didn’t make it.
Jules bore the brunt of the savagery and later died.
The Noosa Journal will follow Christine’s progress. Next week we will bring you her surrogate sister Lilly’s story.




Koalas need your help - fund research to prevent extinction


News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

23 September 2008

By Amy Remeikis

Koalas need your help

Can you imagine a Queensland without koalas?


With the rate the marsupials are disappearing, without help, it’s a Queensland we could discover all too soon.


With koala populations in other states not faring any better, those in the know knew it was beyond time for action.


Yesterday, the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo, Beerwah, announced it would establish a koala disease research fund with the aim of raising $1.2 million to help research into koala diseases over the next three years.


An alarming number of koalas are falling victim to diseases, resulting in a dramatic population decline.


Koala chlamydiosis is probably the most well recognised disease of Australian wildlife.


It causes blindness, infertility, urinary tract infection and kidney failure, and sometimes pneumonia and flu-like syndromes.


However leukaemia, bone marrow failure, cancers and immuno-deficiency syndrome are showing up more and more in koalas presented to the AWH and other wildlife treatment facilities.


All these diseases are suspected to be associated with a koala retrovirus infection which has been detected in all koala populations tested to date, both captive and wild, in Queensland.


It has been detected in several koala populations sampled in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.


Dr Jon Hanger, from the AWH, said the fund had been kick-started by a single donor who pledge $230,000 to the cause.


“Research into diseases in wildlife is notoriously under funded by the Australian Research Council and other funding bodies,” he said.


“We are now realising how urgently we need to understand these devastating diseases in koalas as we witness their rapid decline towards extinction,” the doctor said.


To donate to the research fund, or for more information, visit




Youths attack koalas

News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

11 August 2008

By Hayley Nissen

Sick attack: a baby koala targeted by the gangA koala and her joey are recovering at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah after a gang of youths attacked them with rocks and sticks.

The attack happened on Friday at the Jim Akers Park in Kallangur.  However, they are the lucky ones.

Residents said the youths had previously killed a male joey, dumping it in a bin where it was later found by volunteer rescuer Anika Lehmann.

Staff at the hospital yesterday revealed the joey had sustained injuries consistent with being bashed or clubbed, including a broken right arm, crushed skull and damaged eye.

"We've been rescuing animals for eight years now and I thought I'd seen it all," Mrs Lehmann said.  "It was pretty devastating."

Mrs Lehmann was alerted to the attack on the mother koala, Mary, by local resident Glenn, who was walking his dog in the park, saw what was happening and intervened.

"We got a call on Friday from Glenn about stones and sticks being thrown at a koala and we went out there.

"We got the cherry picker in and got her out and took them to the hospital."

In the meantime, Mrs Lehmann said Glenn was speaking with another local resident about the attack who said she had previously seen the same gang kill a young koala and put in in a bin, but was too scared to approach them.

Sadly it appears this is not an isolated incident after a canvas of the neighbourhood by Mrs Lehmann turned up many more sad stories of animal cruelty, seemingly by the same gang of men aged between 20 and 25 years.

One resident claimed to have seen a row of cane toads nailed to a tree, while another spoke of finding a string of dead magpies tied around one of the big gum trees and other who said his cat had been gutted and placed in his car, where he later found it.

"While we were talking to a few of the residents it turns out they are all terrified," Mrs Lehmann said.

"What we're trying to do now is get in contact with as many people as we can who saw the attacks so we can give it to the police."

Mrs Lehmann and her husband Henk went back to the park yesterday after another call from Glenn, who said he was afraid the gang would come back for two other koalas.  Anyone who has witnessed wildlife attacks in the area can contact Mrs Lehmann at the Caboolture Koala Care and Rescue on 3425 3820.

Petrie police Sergeant Greg Hurst said anyone found responsible could be charged with unlawfully killing protected wildlife.




Disease, loss of habitat results in a koala crisis


News source:  Sunshine Coast Daily

27 July 2008

By Amy Remeikis

Dr Jon Hanger checks the condition of Puffin, a six-year-old koalaThe Australian Wildlife Hospital's        Dr Jon Hanger tells of the koala's desperate plight in our region ...

There is a group of Aussie battlers out there who need your help.

For years they have been chased from their homes.

Ravaged by diseases.



And all this time they have suffered in silence.

With the situation having reached crisis point, those in the know have warned us it is time to act or we will lose the koala forever.

The news that koala populations in the wild are under threat is nothing new.

But their plight has slipped from the national consciousness.

Urbanisation continues to be one of the biggest dangers to the dwindling population, with development bringing a loss of habitat, dogs and other predators, and motor vehicles.

Across south-east Queensland, more than 2000 sick and injured koalas are presented to wildlife organisations each year.

The Australian Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah treats 600 of those animals and only one third can be released back into their natural environment.

Releasing those which can be saved, rehabilitated or have been hand-reared is a common enough practice, but up until now, not much has been done to track the success of those animals after they are reintroduced, or as the case may have it, introduced into the wild.

With financial support from Zarraffas Coffee, the AWH and University of Queensland have spent the past year following the progress of 10 koalas which, up until their release, had never lived independently.

The six females and four males ranged in age from 15 months to two years and eight had been hand-reared, while the remaining two had been raised by their parents in care.

The Australian Wildlife Hospital completed a progress report into the koala research project last month.

The results were both heartening and disappointing.

Heartening because within the first year, the koalas took to their new environment in the Australia Zoo-owned conservation property in the north-east of the Darling Downs without major problems.

A rural conservation site was chosen to limit the impact from urbanisation - three of the most common reasons for koala deaths being domestic dog attack, motor vehicle incidents and disease.

Because of its setting, the 1396 hectare Ironbark Station reduced two of those likelihoods.

The koalas exhibited normal behaviours.  They selected a tree preference, established home ranges and utilised their habitat in a way which is normal for a koala in the wild.

The females created home range patterns closest to the release site, while the males took their exploring a little further - one travelled 14 kilometres from the release site.

All except one of the six females produced offspring.

Three of the koalas needed medical attention.

One of the males had contracted chlamydiosis, a potentially fatal disease which can lead to blindness, infertility, urinary tract infections and pneumonia.  It is at epidemic level in koala populations.  He required a two-week hospitalisation period, while one of the females developed reproductive cysts resulting in infertility and needed surgery.

The biggest blow to the team was when one of the females was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to be euthanised.

These results have told researchers that while there are no real problems with releasing hand-reared koalas into their natural habitat, they are still susceptible to the diseases which have ravaged their population.

"It shows that, even in a secure habitat, the koala population is suffering from disease," Dr Jon Hanger said.

"The koala population is in huge trouble.  We have grave concerns for the future and sustainability for the koala, particularly in south-east Queensland.

"We recently inspected a koala population which was living in a proposed development site.  Of the 13 koalas in that population, two needed to be euthanised and another five had to be hospitalised.  More than half that little population was sick.

"That tells us we are not dealing with a tough species which can handle development and encroachment.

"We are dealing with a species not able to withstand the impacts of urbanisation.  If we don't do something, we are going to lose them in this area."

In south-east Queensland, the koala is listed as vulnerable.

Dr Hanger said the only way to change this was if people started paying attention to conserving their habitat.

"Koalas, even in remote regions, are showing signs of disease," he said.

"There needs to be more value placed on conserving these animals at all levels of government.  Government should invest in the resources necessary to protect habitat, and monitor and prevent the koala population from further decline.

"We have seen a massive decline in the last 20 years.

"We may not be able to do much about the major issue of disease just yet.  But there is a lot we can do about their loss of habitat.

"People just need to start acting again - start pressuring the government to do something.

"This is a situation we can do something about."




Ely barely survives grilling

News source:  The Courier-Mail

15 July 2008

By Glenis Green

Hospital Manager Gail Gipp with koala Ely "Lucky" GrillsBELTED by a car and hauled 12 km, but this lucky koala dodges death.

He's got to be the luckiest koala in Queensland - not only surviving being hit by a car travelling at 100 km/h, but also a harrowing, fur-raising 12 km ride with his head stuck through the vehicles front grille.

So it's no wonder the staff at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast have dubbed the 8-year-old marsupial Ely "Lucky" Grills, after the late TV Australian actor with the same name.

Astonishingly, little Lucky suffered no serious injuries in the unusual car versus koala clash.

This was even though initial rescuers who saw him stuck to the car and alerted the unsuspecting driver believed he had been decapitated.

It turned out the koala's body was dangling from the front of the car, but his head and left arm had been forced through the grille with the force of the 100 km/h impact.

Zoo staff yesterday said the accident had happened on Dayboro Road near the Petrie Quarry on twilight last week - with the driver unaware of her unusual hitchhiker until she stopped 12 km later at Petrie Train Station.

An urgent call was made to the Caboolture Koala Care and Rescue group, with member Rhonda Hay undertaking the delicate job of using a pair of scissors as "jaws of life" to cut around the car's grille mesh to release the animal.

While in shock for a while, Lucky was able to sit up and start eating after two hours in the hospital's intensive care ward.

Hospital manager Gail Gipp said the koala's story underlined the need for drivers to always be alert for wildlife on roads and be prepared to stop and seek help in the case of an accident.

"Koalas are more likely to be on the move over the course of the next few weeks coinciding with the onset of the koala breeding season," she said.

"We ask drivers to exercise particular caution when travelling in koala habitat areas."

Ms Gipp said that because koalas were bumper-bar height, they were vulnerable to suffering severe injuries from even the slightest car hit, highlighting how fortunate Lucky was to survive unscathed.

In keeping with his new name, the hospital's veterinary team discovered Lucky was also suffering an underlying chlamydial infection, for which he is now receiving full treatment.  He should be released back into the wild in 45 days.

Ms Gipp said last year nearly a quarter of the hospital's 5000-plus admissions were animals that had been hit by cars.




Koalas catastrophe

News source:  The Courier-Mail

5 July 2008

By Glenis Green

This is not a robust species. It's a species on the edge.Furry friends ravaged by disease

peril ...

It has always been an iconic Queensland image - a grinning tourist cuddling that most endearing of living fluffy toys, a koala.

But will images and photographs be all that's left of the state's koala population in less than 15 years?

After years of conservationists sounding warnings about the threats from urban pressures, a leading researcher has now said bluntly that koalas could soon be just a memory in the southeast and even throughout Queensland without serious government management.

Director of veterinary services at Australia Zoo's Australian Wildlife Hospital on the Sunshine Coast, Dr Jon Hanger, said new ground-breaking research had shown that koalas were not only being killed off by declining habitat, dogs and traffic but also an insidious virus causing widespread cancers and AIDS.

"It's a very real epidemic and the Government has not recognised that," Dr Hanger said this week.

"This is not a robust species.  It's a species on the edge and we're already looking at extinction along the coastal strips and still the Government is pushing ahead with plans for tens of thousands more houses."

Dr Hanger said he did not think the Environmental Protection Agency had either the will or the power to stand up to the Government.

It needed better resources and wider powers to better protect habitat and wildlife.

"We're either serious about conservation or we're not ... we need to get realistic about management options to conserve koalas, such as translocation to safer areas after rehabilitation (which at the moment breaches EPA policy)," he said.

But an EPA spokesman said a 10-year koala conservation and management program implemented in late 2006, to which $2.145 million had been allocated over four years, was already under way to balance rapid urbanisation with the needs of the koala.

"The Koala Plan has been in operation for less than two years and it will take time to show positive results," he said.

Dr Hanger said while there was good news that 12 months of research showed hand-raised koalas could survive in the wild, the bad news was that diseases were now killing at least 50 per cent and up to 80 per cent of wild koalas prematurely.

The main killer was koala retrovirus (KoRv), which caused AIDS-like immune deficiency diseases and a range of cancers.

There was also chlamydiosis, which caused conjunctivitis, urinary and reproductive tract problems which could lead to blindness and infertility.

"We did a survey and the average age of death for koalas is six years while they should be living to 12-14 years," Dr Hanger said.  "Just imagine if this happened in the human population and you had all these people dying at 40 - there'd be a huge outcry."

Dr Hanger said the Australian Wildlife Hospital research project done with the University of Queensland and sponsored by Zarraffa's Coffee company, had demonstrated that the practice of hand-raising koalas was successful - with seven of the 10 koalas in the subject group surviving in the wild without human intervention and another two surviving with medical treatment.

But health checks confirmed suspicions the group was not immune to diseases prevalent among wild koalas - with one of the males contracting chlamydiosis and associated prostatitis, one female developing reproductive cysts and another fatal lymphoma.



AIDS-like virus threatens Qld koalas

News source:  The Canberra Times

4 July 2008

By Rosslyn Beeby

Koalas are threatened by a disease epidemicKOALAS across Queensland are dying from the spread of an AIDS-like virus which weakens their immune system, and could become extinct within 15 years, a leading researcher says.

"We're seeing a 100 per cent infection rate in the populations we're studying.  On those figures, it should be considered a disease epidemic," Australian Wildlife Hospital research director Jon Hanger said.

The disease, known as koala retrovirus, was genetically sequenced by Dr Hanger in 1999 and has been linked to 80 per cent of deaths in captive koalas in Queensland from leukaemia, lymphoma, malignant tumours and immune deficiency disorders.

The spread of the virus, combined with loss of habitat caused by urban development, has already made "localised extinctions of koalas commonplace in some areas of Queensland," Dr Hanger said.

"We are losing the battle, and koala populations in smaller fragmented habitats are doomed to extinction.

"We have hammered our biodiversity like you wouldn't believe.  If you look at a map of Australia on Google Earth you'll see how few fragments of native vegetation are left across the continent.  We have gone way beyond the tipping point for many of our ecosystems."

State and federal governments failed to understand the severity and impact of the fatal retrovirus and were relying on "antiquated legislation" to conserve Australia's koalas, he said.

Current laws protecting Queensland's koalas did not address new demands to conserve the species, such as hand-rearing of orphaned joeys, translocation to new habitat, rehabilitation of injured wildlife or the need to protect food trees and habitat.

"They were written at a time when the main aim was to make it illegal to kill or collect koalas.  They need to be urgently revised to factor in threats posed by climate change, the rapid spread of disease and urban development."

The Australian Wildlife Hospital and University of Queensland issued yesterday a progress report on a study tracking movements of hand-reared young koalas released on to a rural conservation property on the Darling Downs.

Dr Hanger said the greatest distance travelled was 14 km from the release site and reproductive success was high among the group.  But the koalas also had to contend with the risks of feral dog attacks, "misadventure associated with interaction with cattle", clearing of trees by local property owners, and worsening drought conditions.

Dr Hanger's predictions regarding local extinctions of koalas follows new research published earlier this week in the international science journal Nature.  It warns the risk of species extinctions has been grossly underestimated due to a mathematical "misdiagnosis" and is likely to be 100 times greater than current estimates.

The study, led by Brett Melbourne of the University of Colorado, claims methods used to determine species at risk of extinction have overlooked key factor random differences between individuals in a given population.  These differences include physical size, sex ratios, and behavioral variations that can influence survival rates and reproductive success.

"When we apply our new mathematical model to species extinction rates, it shows things are worse than we thought," Dr Melbourne said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently estimates more than 16,000 species worldwide are threatened with extinction - one in four mammals, one in three amphibians and 10 per cent of the world's birds.

Dr Melbourne said these figures should be "revised upward by a large amount".




Steve's wildlife wish

News source: Sunday Herald Sun

29 June 2008

By Jane E. Fraser

Steve's wildlife wishTHERE is a well-rehearsed dance going on in the Australian Wildlife Hospital

on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Khaki-clad vets, nurses and volunteers two-step and tango around one another, treating sick and injured wildlife in a space no bigger than the average lounge room.

Every now and then someone calls "X-ray" and the khaki crew makes last checks of patients before quick-stepping outside to avoid the radiation.

In the former avocado packing shed, next to Australia Zoo at Beerwah, there is no such luxury as an X-ray room, or even an operating theatre.

A red line on the floor marks the sterile zone around the operating table and the intensive care unit doubles as a staff tea room, not that anyone ever seems to sit down.

Yet, the tango will soon be over, with builders putting the finishing touches on a spectacular new $5 million wildlife hospital next door to the old shed.

In a few weeks, the hospital staff will be gliding across 1300 sqm of purpose-built operating rooms, X-ray and CAT-scan rooms, ambulance bays, quarantine areas, general treatment areas and other facilities that will raise the level of care to a new level.

Importantly for visitors, the hospital has been designed to accommodate spectators, with huge glass panels around operating theatres and animal treatment areas.

Whatever is happening on the day is what visitors will share.

It may be an emergency operation on a koala that has been hit by a car, the examination of an endangered turtle with a torn flipper, a final check on an animal that is ready to be released in the wild or the hand feeding of orphaned animals.

The Australian Wildlife Hospital, which is run by the late Steve Irwin's conservation charity Wildlife Warriors Worldwide and is set to be the world's biggest wildlife hospital, promises to be a memorable addition to a visit to the adjacent Australia Zoo.  A big part of Irwin's vision for the hospital, which he intended to dedicate to the memory of his mother, was to encourage people to come to see the work being done.

"It is all about education.  People don't care about what they don't come into contact with," says hospital manager, Gail Gipp.  "Having the glass walls gives us the opportunity to operate in a much more clinical way, without cutting off access for people.  And it means people can come and see where their money (charitable donation) has gone."

For the staff of the hospital, the move out of the avocado shed will be a time of excitement and nostalgia.

"There are so many good memories in this building, also a lot of sad memories," Gipp says.  "There's a lot of Steve (Irwin) in here as well.  He never saw the new building, so that's sad."



What's happened to our koalas?

News source:  Noosa Style Living

Winter June-Sep 08

Wanda with Bart (front) and AnnaWITH rampant urbanisation taking its toll on koala numbers and the carrying capacity of the Noosa National Park unable to support an abundant koala population, where will the cuddly icons live?

When was the last time you saw a koala chomping gum leaves near Halse Lodge, asleep in a tree at Little Cove or checking out the diners and bush turkeys at Lindoni's or Rococo?

It's not just land-clearing which leads to fragmented koala populations becoming unsustainable but also the secondary effects of road trauma incidents, attacks by domestic dogs and the challenges of disease.

After the koala hunts of the early 20th Century, Noosa's wild koala population was boosted in the 60s when Dr Arthur Harold rescued several from the Beerwah area when it was being cleared for radiata pine plantations.  For a couple of decades koalas thrived there enjoying abundant food.  By the 1990s however the human population and infrastructure had grown to a point where koalas were regularly getting into strife.   No road sense, no idea that they should keep away from dogs and of course they wouldn't survive once the forest was cleared for development.  There was also the problem of Chlamydia which causes several things including blindness and infertility.

Noosa Veterinary Surgery's Mark Powell has been the first port of call for many koalas in need and Mark and his staff, rangers and a network of volunteers have given their time unstintingly to rescue, rehabilitate and release them.  Support has also increased with Australia Zoo establishing a wildlife hospital and the Australian Koala Foundation has always championed the cause.

Amongst the many touching tales is related by volunteer Wanda Grabowski:  "Bart and his mother were found in extremely poor condition on the ground at Weyba Park and taken to the Australian Wildlife Hospital.  Bart's mother was suffering from lymphoma and leukaemia, so put to sleep and I was lucky enough to have the privilege of raising this feisty 800 gram joey.

"At that time I was raising another female koala joey named Anna and Bart joined her in my 'koala guestroom'.  Bart decided Anna would be his 'surrogate mother' and clambered or jumped onto her back at every opportunity.

"In time they both adjusted to each other's company and things settled down.  At around 2.5 kilos I began weaning him off the Infasoy paste and Bart went downstairs with Anna into an outdoor enclosure.  It was a pleasure to see him tearing into the fresh leaf brought to him daily by his loving foster mother.

"At 3.5 kilos Bart went into the Kindergarten Rainforest Enclosure at the Australian Wildlife Hospital.  It is here that the bonds between human foster mothers and their charges are severed.  Koala joeys learn to mix with other koalas and deal with the vagaries of sun, wind and rain.  I then began the process of searching for an appropriate location in which to release Bart.

"Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service insist koalas be returned from whence they came.  In many cases, this isn't a good idea.  Bart came from the suburbs of Noosa and I felt that to put him back into that environment would guarantee his demise, sooner rather than later.  Hand raised joeys do not acquire the same instincts that a joey develops growing up with its natural mother.  I believe the best option for hand-raised joeys is to release them into bushland that won't be cleared for development and where there is little to no road traffic and minimal chances of coming across dogs."

Much to Wanda's chagrin, Bart was released near Noosa Springs to fend for himself, face a lot of competition for food and access to mates.  He lasted six months and was found by the side of the road in Weyba Downs.  "An autopsy revealed that my perfect, gentle, precious boy had received multiple dog bites to his side and thighs - his liver was ruptured and his abdomen was full of blood," says an upset Wanda.  "Wild dogs or dingoes in search of food had not attacked Bart, rather well fed, unrestrained domestic pets.  All the love, care and nurturing I provided came to nothing."

Mark Powell is doubtful if people living in Noosa know how dire the situation is:  "Take a wander in the beautiful Noosa National Park, sniff the air, watch the ground for droppings, study the eucalypt canopy and you never know, you might see an elusive, gentle, wild koala."




Roo cull costly on pouch

News source: The Daily Telegraph

23 May 2008

By Alison Rehn

Roos on the run ... nine times cheaper to let roos liveKANGAROOS that have been culled in Canberra this week could have been spared for less than $400,000 - nine times less than Defence claimed it would cost.

The Daily Telegraph has learned Wildlife Warriors - established by the late Steve Irwin - offered late last year to relocate 400 kangaroos from Defence land in Canberra's north to private land, initially at a cost of $690,000.

But after Defence claimed their offer was too expensive, it came back with an offer in the high $300,000s.

General Manager of the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Wildlife Warriors, Gail Gipp, said that in 2007 the group responded to Defence's request for applications to relocate the kangaroos from the Belconnen site.

Ms Gipp said she believed Wildlife Warriors' offer provided a "good outcome" for the kangaroos, but after submitting its revised offer, the group "never heard from Defence again."

Eight days ago, when Defence said there was "no option" but for the cull to go ahead, the department said it would cost $3.5 million to relocate the kangaroos.



Brighter prognosis, by gum


News source: The Courier-Mail

1 May 2008

By Sophie Elsworth

Wildlife haven ... Dr Jon Hanger, director of veterinary services and research, treats a koala at the hospitalONE of the world's largest animal hospitals is coming to the Sunshine Coast.

The $5 million facility at Australia Zoo is less than two months from completion, and will have more than 10,000 patients pass through its doors each year.

Dr Jon Hanger, who is director of veterinary services and research at the hospital, said the project was "exciting" and will be a dramatic improvement on the existing wildlife hospital.

"It's about six times the area of what we have now. Basically in the old hospital we just have one treatment room," he said.

"The new hospital will have dedicated operating rooms, including rooms for ultrasounds and for x-rays and a CAT scanning machine. We also have an autopsy room and a laboratory."

The old hospital facility was built in honour of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's mother Lyn, who died in a car crash eight years ago.

It will continue working alongside the new facility, which will house state-of-the-art equipment. The CAT-scan machine, which is worth more than $1 million, was donated to the hospital by Queensland Diagnostic Imaging.

The staff, including seven vets and more than 100 volunteers, will treat a range of animals, from tiny frogs to marine turtles, birds, reptiles and kangaroos.

The new building is funded by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide - and the Federal Government has contributed $2.5 million to the project. The rest of the funds are being met by various other sponsors and charity fundraising.


Bringing Steve's dream to life ...

News source: Sunshine Coast Sunday

13 April 2008

By Jane Gardner

Hospital manager Gail Gipp with Eaton Electrical Group Managing Director and patient SuzyFOUR years ago, an old avocado packing shed at Beerwah was converted into a makeshift hospital for sick and injured wildlife with the blessing of passionate conservationist Steve Irwin.

Gail Gipp became the first member of staff.

Ms Gipp, who is now the general manager of the Australian Wildlife Hospital, had no idea then she was about to become the driving force behind the establishment of the world's biggest wildlife hospital.

As it is, the little old shed has to cope under the pressure of 20 full-time staff and 80 volunteers who treat 6000 animals each year in trying conditions.

There is one small operating room, which houses the tables, reception, equipment and an x-ray machine that when in use requires all staff to leave the building.

Upstairs, there are two even tinier rooms, one for the reptiles, another for the staff and intensive care patients and a bunk for the hospital manager Ms Gipp to sleep.

Before his death, the greatest Wildlife Warrior of them all - Steve Irwin - recognised the need for a "you beaut" hospital by pitching in $1 million to build his dream.

In June, Steve's dream will be realised, as the Wildlife Warriors move into a facility next door, seven times the size of their current headquarters.

The $5 million "eco-facility" will be the largest wildlife hospital in the world.

Yesterday, half-a-dozen tradesmen from Walton Constructions donated their time to help the great Steve Irwin's dream come to fruition.

They helped install a $60,000 smart lighting system, called C-Bus, donated by Eaton Electrical Group and Clipsal.

The system automatically switches off the light when someone leaves the room.

It's just one of the fantastic environmentally friendly initiatives used in the construction of the facility.

Architect Andrew Webb took on the project 20 months ago, with a mission to use building materials that would cause the least harm to the environment and smart design concepts that minimise power use.

"We considered where materials have come from, how they are best used in building and where they will end up ultimately when the building is demolished or changed," he said.

"It's probably six or seven times the size of the old building. They're not going to know themselves. It's really going to change Wildlife Warriors operations. It's really exciting for them and a wonderful project to be involved in".

"When Gail first rang me she said they were currently in an avocado packing shed and I thought 'well, maybe they want a slightly bigger shed', but the scale of this being the largest wildlife hospital in the world has been a fantastic challenge. Virtually all the hospital facilities, they do have ambulances that come in and public drop off, they cover quite a large area with these services.

Gail Gipp with Architect Andrew Webb and Walton Construction's Site Manager Roger Clark"It's just amazing, we have our painters starting today so I'm very anxious to see the finishing touches come together. It has been a challenge."

The new building is built out of hay and mud brick and maximises natural lighting to save power and to make the animals feel more at home. It has two operating theatres with ceiling-to-floor glass windows for student vets to watch operations.

There are two treatment rooms, separate intensive care units for mammals, birds and reptiles, a staff room, five toilets, a CAT scan room, an ambulance bay and public drop off area, a pharmacy, a nursery and a waiting room.

It also features a conference room that will be hired out to generate funds for the hospital and made available free of charge to companies who have donated time and materials to build the hospital.

"It's overwhelming and it's so exciting to see our dream materialise and also Steve and Terri's dream," Gail said.

"I hope all of Australia can be proud of what we've achieved. We've had some absolutely amazing donations ... we're so lucky we have (medical) equipment other people only dream about."




Save the Species ...

koalas rescued around Kallangur

News source: Norths Leagues & Services Club Magazine

Issue 2 - March/April 2008

A koala patient and her joeyTHERE'S no doubt that these cuddly looking "bears" are one of our best loved national symbols. It's devastating then to learn that so many of these native Australian marsupials are killed or injured on Queensland roads every year.

In 2007, the Beerwah Australian Wildlife Hospital alone treated over 600 koalas, a number which is sadly on the rise.

"At present we have 28 koalas in care," says Carolyn Beaton, Public Relations Consultant for the Hospital. "That number can easily quadruple during busy periods, particularly the koala breading season."

The Australian Wildlife Hospital is the nearest treatment facility to the Kallangur and Pine Rivers areas and caters to the wildlife corridor that runs through Pine Rivers. This area has one of the largest koala populations in Australia and is unfortunately where many of these koala injuries occur, through motor accidents and dog attacks.

"The Hospital provides emergency rescue, treatment and rehabilitation services - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," says Carolyn. Rescued koalas (whom the Hospital refers to as "patients") are taken to the Hospital where they receive expert care and attention, including a comprehensive health assessment that involves x-rays, ultrasound examination, blood tests and swabs.

The koalas remain in care until they are fit and healthy enough to be released back into the wild. Although, it's not always easy to say goodbye.

"Each Hospital patient receives a name as soon as they are admitted," says Carolyn. "We do get to know each patient as an individual, particularly if we are caring for them for several weeks or months. They each have unique personalities just as people do."

But while letting go can sometimes be hard, the real rewards come when a patient can be taken home. "Our over-riding desire is to see every patient become fit and well so that they can be returned to the wild and to live the life that they are meant to," says Carolyn.

"The Hospital's motto is 'save one, save the species' - every patient that we can successfully treat and return to the wild makes a difference."

The carers and staff at the Australian Wildlife Hospital do a fantastic job in taking care of these beautiful creatures, but we can all do our bit too. Carolyn suggests that motorists should be particularly alert during sunrise and sunset and in wildlife "hot spots" (these are generally well sign-posted).

"If you see injured wildlife on the roadside, please do stop to lend assistance where it is safe to do so," adds Carolyn. "In particular, it is helpful to cover them with a towel or blanket and to check the pouches of females (but do not attempt to remove a joey) until assistance arrives. Call the Australian Wildlife Hospital (1300 369 652) or nearest wildlife treatment facility for emergency assistance."

The Australian Wildlife Hospital is sponsored by Australia Zoo and is also funded by public donations to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Worldwide, a charity founded by Steve and Terri Irwin. If you'd like to make a donation, please visit the Australian Wildlife Hospital website at



Fishing poses threat to wildlife

News source: Sunshine Coast Sunday

16 March 2008

By Alan Lander

AS wildlife across the Coast continues to suffer the effects of human population growth, including habitat clearance and attacks by domestic animals, seabirds are the latest patients in the firing line.

Carers say the increase in recreational fishing means more birds are fighting for the same food source or aiming for easy pickings.

But the price is high.

The Australian Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah is worried about the influx of pelicans, crested terns and pied cormorants needing surgery for injuries from fishing hooks.

Veterinary surgeon Amber Gillett said while fishermen were not personally to blame for bird injuries, a lot could be done to reduce hospital cases, with many birds able to be rescued on the spot.

"Avians (birds) represent 50-60% of all our 'patients' and seabirds represent around 15%," she said. "Fish shortages in the oceans are attracting birds closer to spots where there are more fish, meaning where anglers are, boats etc,"

The hospital hoped to talk to fishing groups to seek shared solutions.

"We're already involved in other groups' work, especially with koala habitats," Dr Gillett said.

"We can't cover it all, but we're open to talk. We recognise that crab pots, trawlers and general rubbish presents hazards to seabirds too - there are several levels that need to be addressed."

Dr Gillett said the hospital had seen about 170 seabirds in 18 months, including almost 80 in the past two months.

She said the birds treated at the hospital were only those brought in. Many other injured birds were either helped on site by the people who found them, or left to die.

"Twenty-one per cent of birds we see have fishing tackle injuries," she said. "The survival rate is about 50%.

One pelican called Harriet was brought in from Redcliffe.

"She had swallowed a hook, plus she had a piece of metal sticking out of her body," Dr Gillett said.

"Fortunately, she recovered well, however it was frustrating that two other pelicans, Jenny and Jake, admitted with similar injuries shortly after."

Dr Gillett said the birds were often going for the fishing line bait.

"It happens mainly when an angler is casting," she said. "We would ask that if someone catches a bird they notify someone."

"The problem is many feel they will get into trouble if they report or take in an injured bird.

"You will not be blamed."



First Person

News source:  The Weekender

21 February 2008

Gail Gipp with a koala patientTHE Sunshine Coast is home to many great things.  Most are obvious, some operate behind the scenes.  The Australian Wildlife Hospital, which will become the world's largest when work is completed on the new facility in April, is in the latter camp.  Offering round-the-clock care for sick and injured wildlife, the team of staff and volunteers follow founder Steve Irwin's lead and stop at nothing to save native species from injuries and disease.  Now, the call has gone out for more volunteers.  Manager Gail Gipp explains what it takes to be a hospital helper.

What kind of person do you need to be?  You just have to love animals and get enjoyment from working with them.  You also have to have the time, not mind getting dirty and be pretty able-bodied as there's a lot of work done outside.

What would you do from day to day?  Everything.  Our volunteers clean all of the koala shelters, they paste-feed the koalas and look after the many animals in our care.

How many volunteers do you need?  We've got 82 volunteers at the moment and need another 20.  Some of our volunteers have been with us from the start and tell us they love it.  It's a really nice environment to be in - we all work very closely and don't segregate between staff and volunteers.  We're very grateful to them.  We wouldn't be able to do it without the volunteers.




Snake's dinner bell

News source: The Courier-Mail
9 February 2008
By Philip Hammond

Snake's dinner bell A COLLAR with bells on will help prevent your cat eating native wildlife, but it won't prevent the wildlife eating your cat.

That was this week's message from Caboolture Shire Council bushcare officer Ed Surman, who was called to Bribie Island last month where a big carpet python was curled up under a house.

Read full article




Little Hannah on way to recovery

News source: The Sunday Mail
27 January 2008
By Hannah Davies

Rescued: Baby platypus Hannah recovers in the Australian Wildlife HospitalSHE'S had a rough ride so far but this baby platypus is now on the road to recovery.

Little Hannah has touched the hearts of carers at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah, just north of Brisbane, since she was rescued from a flooded river in New South Wales.

Read full article




'Big Ted' recovering

News source:  Island News

23 January 2008

By The Ferryman

TAKE CARE: Big Ted is still under care at the Australian Wildlife HospitalBIG Ted, the elderly loggerhead turtle rescued in the Pumicestone Passage in October 2007 and featured in the Bribie Weekly on November 23, is still under care at the Australian Wildlife Hospital.

The team was working hard to source information and food to help him heal and return to the wild.

First weighing in at about 108 kilograms when found by Dave at Bribie Island Boat Hire, his weight dropped to 97 kg but it was now a fantastic 107 kg and he was now starting to swim like the angel of the ocean that he is.

The team was tube feeding Ted with a "slurpy" made of green lipped muscles carrots, de-inked squid, prawns and bait fish - all in the kitchen blender.  Yum.  Bid Ted was relishing both the food and the attention.

Another loggerhead found recently sparked Ted's interest - she was a female, of breeding age and was found at Godwin Beach.  The outlook was good for Winnie and she gave Ted a new lease on life.

Brooke (pictured in November 23 issue) unfortunately did not make it and was found to have extreme impaction in her gut described as "the size and depth of a concrete block".  There was no hope for her as her sickness was months in the making.  There were numerous rescues both up the coast and within Pumicestone Passage this season with many turtles reported with boat strikes as well as floating sickness.  Please do not leave rubbish around - it ends up in the sea, with turtles eating items they cannot digest, dying a slow and painful death.

Ferryman Cruises, Bribie Island is trying to source wild by-catch that may be suitable to use for the turtles' rehabilitation.  Should you spot a turtle in distress, phone 1300 369 652, or if dead, report any tag/identity number, size and injuries.


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