Functional extinction is when a species’ population becomes so limited that they can no longer reproduce.
Luckily for koalas and koala fans worldwide, these reports are being debunked. Experts are saying that: yes, the recent bushfires have indeed been devastating to some koala populations but the animal is capable of recovering.
Worldwide fear for the koala’s existence came about after a video of a brave Aussie grandmother heading straight for the burning bush (in her bra) to rescue a confused, singed koala went viral.
The video shows Toni Doherty, who took off her own shirt amidst the flames to save the animal from certain death as fires raged west of Port Macquarie.
Doherty has been described by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital staff as an “absolute legend” for her fearless act in rescuing the male koala which has now been named Ellenborough Lewis, after her grandchild.
The staff at the hospital rehydrated Lewis and tended to his burns the next day. Lewis is now receiving round the clock care by one of the hospitals home care volunteers only known as Barb.
Barb hand feeds Lewis a single leaf at a time, with feeding taking up to an hour, the hospital says. For now, his prognosis is guarded as he received significant burns, but with Barb’s care, he will hopefully recover.
Koala receiving care at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
The video of Doherty saving Lewis lead to an international outpour of love and sympathy for the endangered icon that is the koala.
In light of this, the hospital set up a Go Fund Me to raise money to care for the sick animals that were turning up daily. They set a goal for a modest $25,000 AUD but ended up with a lot more than they anticipated.
To date the hospital has raised a whopping $1,614,260 AUD from over 37,000 donors.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and National Parks and Wildlife Service crew leaders, have spent weeks searching for koalas following the devastating bush fires in the Port Macquarie area.
To date, 31 koalas have been brought to the hospital from several fire grounds.
On admittance to the hospital, a koala is rehydrated and then the following day examined for burns which are treated with burns cream before they are bandaged.
In a statement on 21st November 2019, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said:
“We are overwhelmed and humbled with gratitude for the support and care shown by people from all over the world for our efforts to care for koalas now and to try to ensure that we still have koalas for generations to come.
The initial target of $25,000 has well and truly been exceeded. Your generous donations have meant that we can now extend the original drinking stations project across a wider area of koala habitat in NSW. This program also benefits other wildlife affected in these areas.
In addition, this extra money will enable us to establish a wild koala breeding program. From the comments received, everyone wants to see the survival of this special animal.”
The hospital also stated that some of the funds raised will be directed to building a ‘Koala Ark’, a facility to allow the surviving koalas to be accommodated in a healthy habitat area.