Australia’s First Koala Hospital
Koala Park was created in the 1920’s and officially opened in October of 1930 by the founder Noel Burnet. He became alarmed at the high numbers of koalas shot for the large export fur trade. He feared that if such harsh treatment was allowed to continue, this lovable and unique Australian animal would disappear from the face of the earth forever. From that time on he spent his whole life fighting to protect research and Create a safe environment in which they could live and breed naturally.
This was the beginning of a unique family involvement with the koala that continues to this day, Noel Burnet’s family are still owner operators of the sanctuary following the same basic principles upon which it was founded.
The threat koalas face today is still one of despair as koala numbers in the wild diminish due to the clearing of the land for expansion of human settlement, for example, for agriculture, housing, mining, forestry, shops, factories and roads. While we need these modern conveniences, we should be trying to put them where koalas are not. In 2013 and 2014 almost 700 koalas where secretly killed by lethal injection near Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and thousands more are in danger of starvation.
As we expand into koala habitat we bring additional threats to the koala such as road traffic and dogs.
There are 4 common Koala diseases caused by the Chlamydia organism: conjunctivitis, which can cause blindness, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and reproductive tract infections, which can cause female infertility. The symptoms of Chlamydia manifest as sore eyes, chest infections, and “wet bottom” or “dirty tail”. Koala Park is trying the drug Chloramphenicol which we hope may have some success in managing the Chlamydia organism in young koalas, however whether Chloramphenicol treatment prevents long-term reinfection is not established. Chloramphenicol is one of the original antibiotics that emerged in about 1950 and has a narrow range of uses in the developed world in human medicine. Rare, unpredictable, but fatal side effects in humans mean that its use is forbidden in food animal medicine, thus it has very limited veterinary applications. So, with no viable market, the drug companies stopped making it.
It is the Koala parks opinion that to display koalas with Chlamydia is vital and educational to the public of the world so as to raise awareness of their struggle.
During the 1990 the family tried to raise money for a Sydney-based koala hospital but the staggering construction costs made this impossible, all the money raised was given to the Sydney University for koala research.
Animal Care runs in the family:
Walter Bradley, Great grandfather of Noel Burnet, in 1897 proposed the establishment of the New South Wales Zoological Society. They built a zoo in Moore Park and managed it from 1881 to 1916 when the animal collection and staff were transferred to start the then new Taronga Zoological Park trust. Koala Park’s current Directors, now Octogenarians after many years of supporting and helping with research of Koalas all around Australia still enjoy planting Koala feed trees.