Last year Friends of the Koala’s 24/7 rescue hotline handled over 600 calls, with 342 koalas being admitted for care. The vast majority of these sick or injured koalas had to spend time recovering at the group’s Koala Care Centre in East Lismore. Now, plans are afoot to upgrade the care centre.

The Koala Care Centre, with its attached plant nursery, is a well-known Lismore landmark, attracting more and more visitors each year, many from overseas.

The facility sits on a 1.27 hectare site, located in the East Lismore koala corridor and adjacent to Southern Cross University.

The group recently secured a long-term lease from the Lismore City Council to enable expansion of the centre to meet the increasingly desperate needs of many Northern Rivers koalas.

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said: “The current premises have served us well over the past decade but they were built to a very modest budget and at a time when there were approximately a third of the current number of koalas coming into care.

“We need to provide a modern, well-equipped facility for the ever-increasing number of veterinary intervention procedures that are required.

“Additionally, we need a base from which we can conduct research that will expand our knowledge of the diseases that are so prevalent in the region’s koala population.”

Although building, equipping and staffing a professionally credentialled koala clinic is a long-term goal, expanding and redeveloping its present facility to meet cutting-edge best practice is an immediate priority for Friends of the Koala.

“Our koalas, our dedicated volunteers and our visitors all deserve better than the existing facility can deliver,” Ms Vass said.

“We also need to provide for educational groups as well as provide space for administration and garaging for the koala rescue van.

“Although times may be a bit tough for fund-raising, they are even tougher for the iconic koala.

“We are confident that the continuing work of Friends of the Koala will be widely supported and that people across the Northern Rivers will rally to help the koalas just as they did back in the early 1990s when the present Care Centre was being planned.”

The role of specialist koala clinics will be one of many topics to be explored at Friends of the Koala’s upcoming Koala Conservation Conference.

Registration forms are available on Friends of the Koala’s website: www.friendsofthekoala.org or at the Koala Care Centre in Rifle Range Road, East Lismore. Enquiries can be directed to the president on 6629 8388.