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NSW koala hospital flooded with donations after bushfires

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 13/11/2019 Emily McPherson

Australians have opened their hearts and wallets to help save NSW's koala population which has been decimated by the fires, raising almost $350,000 in the space of days.

The donations, made via an online fundraiser, will go to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

As well as nursing 18 injured koalas back to health, the hospital is mobilising the production and distribution of drinking stations to help give dehydrated koalas a chance of surviving in the wild.

a blue stuffed animal lying on the ground: An injured koala is treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. © Supplied An injured koala is treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton said the hospital made the call this morning to triple the amount of drinking stations it will roll out, thanks to the generous donations of the public.

"Originally we were aiming to do 30, we have upped the number to 100 because we have gotten so many donations," Ms Ashton said.

"It's just so heartwarming and fabulous that people are showing that they care."

More than two-thirds of the koala's habitat in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve was destroyed last week when the fires first ripped through the area. It was estimated at the time that 350 koalas had perished out of a total of 600.

a store inside of a building: A prototype of the drinking stations which will be rolled out to help dehydrated koalas. © Supplied A prototype of the drinking stations which will be rolled out to help dehydrated koalas.

However, parts of the reserve are still burning and together with the toll from yesterday's destruction, the number of koala deaths is expected to increase.

"Because of the intensity of the fires we are not finding many bodies. The fires basically cremated the wildlife. It was so intense they have just been incinerated," Ms Ashton said.

Many of the surviving koalas are suffering from severe dehydration.

"We have had some little koalas coming out of the fire areas, they are just lying down, they are so dehydrated. We have lost a few who have just given up I think," she said.

Wildlife workers are not yet able to enter the bushfire zone, but production on the drinking stations is already well underway.

A local manufacturer in Port Macquarie had been contracted to complete one drinking station a day, Ms Ashton said.

Another manufacturer in Inverell, northern NSW, will produce more drinking stations to be sent directly to Lismore to help the koalas in the Northern Rivers region.

a man in a yellow jacket standing next to a forest: A volunteer searches burnt bushland south of Port Macquarie for injured koalas and wildlife. © Nick Moir, The Sydney Morning Herald A volunteer searches burnt bushland south of Port Macquarie for injured koalas and wildlife.

One positive to come out of the bushfire tragedy was the research wildlife workers planned to carry out as part of the management of the drinking stations, Ms Ashton said.

"We are installing cameras with the drinking stations so we can monitor what wildlife is coming and what their behaviours are," she said.

"We are going to document all of this, so the knowledge that we gain we can share with other wildlife organisations across Australia and they can adapt it to their particular area. So it's good research that is actually going to come out of this terrible tragedy."

Of the 18 injured koalas in the hospital's care, many were starting to make a good recovery, Ms Ashton said.

"Even some of the first ones that we got through with the burnt paws, they are starting to get out of their baskets and move around," she said.

"They were just curled up in little brown balls to begin with and they are gradually starting to get out of their basket. So that is absolutely fabulous."

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au.

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