Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in NSW launched a fundraising page on October 31 – which as of Thursday had tremendously exceeded its $25,000 target, with over $1 million of donations recorded on its page.
Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton said the GoFundMe account had been established to raise money for koala drinking stations, and extra funds will now go towards launching the country’s first wild koala breeding program through a second GoFundMe page.
“We’re closing the original GoFundMe site tomorrow because we’ve more than exceeded our target and we don’t want to be greedy,” Ashton told HuffPost Australia on Thursday.
Ashton explained the drinking stations were currently being built and will be offered to “all wildlife organisations in NSW”.
“So we’ll actually get them delivered and we’ll work with National Parks and Forestry to work out the best location for these drinking stations and get them put in to try and get water out to the wildlife that’s remaining,” she said.
“But now we’ve moved on to setting up a new site,” she said. “That’s to buy land to actually set up this breeding program so that’s what we’re doing now.
“We’re going to start that to try and rebuild the koala population because it’s been so devastated.”
As of midday AEST on Friday, the original GoFundMe page called “Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires” was still active, with the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital thanking Australians for their support in a new comment.
“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,” said the organisation.
“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.”
The second GoFundMe page titled “Saving Australia’s Koalas” had already raised over $23,000 as of Friday morning.
As many as 350 koalas are believed to have died during the recent NSW and Queensland bushfires.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital currently has 51 koalas in its care, 31 of which have been affected by the NSW bushfires.
With only four paid staff members and the rest of the work done by 150 volunteers, Ashton said it’s been a “frenetic” time for the carers.
“We’ve got most teams here by 7:30-8:00 in the morning and we close at 4:30pm but they are here quite a long time after that and working from home as well,” she said.
This week a koala who was rescued by heroic grandmother Toni Doherty was brought into the organisation’s care.
“We’re fairly guarded on his condition,” Ashton told HuffPost Australia on Thursday. “He was quite badly burnt, his paws are badly burnt. He’s a mature, adult koala.”
The koala – now named Lewis after one of Doherty’s grandchildren – is being cared for by one of the hospital’s carers Barb in her own home, to ensure he receives the timely care he needs.