An overwhelming number of animals perished in the destructive Mallacoota bushfires in Victoria. The 13 koalas currently recovering at Phillip Island Nature Parks are some of the lucky ones to survive. One of these battlers is Frankie, a subadult male who WWF-Australia has been following as he recovers during his journey back for release into the wild. Frankie was forced out of his habitat when the Australian bushfires of 2019-20 tore through his home in Mallacoota, leaving him wounded. With burns to his paw pads and singed ears, after intensive treatment, he was transported to Phillip Island Nature Parks. Today, we’re happy to be continuing Frankie’s story.
For some koalas, their mental and physical injuries after a traumatic event like a bushfire can be so severe they’re never really going to be fit to re-enter the wild, as they’d struggle to find food and survive on their own. This isn’t the case for Frankie who, with help from the incredible rangers at Phillip Island Nature Parks, is on the road to a full recovery. His injuries have healed, although the fur on his ears is still taking time to grow back, he’s put on a few kilos of weight and has been climbing high up into the treetops: improving his muscular strength. This exciting progress means he’s now ready to move to the next stage of rehabilitation.
It’s important to realise that koalas are wild animals so a vital part of their rehab process is training them to be wild again. They have to regain their strength and capacity to climb trees because they rely so heavily on this ability for sleeping and eating if they’re going to survive. Once their wounds are healed, koalas must learn to avoid human interaction as this is critical for returning to the wild. Frankie’s shown his capability to survive on his own and will soon be moving with six other koalas to a semi-wild facility. Thanks to donations from our generous supporters, WWF-Australia has been able to fund two of these state of the art rehabilitation facilities at Phillip Island Nature Parks. It’s exciting to see Frankie and his friends moving to the end of their journey where they can become wild koalas again.
Frankie’s rapid recovery wouldn’t have been possible without the wonderful rangers at Phillip Island Nature Parks. The rangers ensure the koalas have a stress-free environment where they're able to be away from humans and just be koalas. Each day they monitor Frankie and the other 12 koalas in their care. They monitor the koalas’ wounds as well as the amount of food eaten each day and night to check their recovery progress and what further care needs to be administered. Come spring, the rangers are hoping they can release Frankie back to his home in the Mallacoota region.
Though Frankie may be ready to return to the wild, the wild may not be ready for him. The Mallacoota area where he was found was severely damaged by the bushfires. New growth is developing, but it will take time for the eucalyptus trees to produce enough food and shelter to support the koala population, and especially a growing boy like Frankie.
Our native wildlife has been on the brink for decades. Unfortunately, even before Australia's 2019-20 bushfires, koalas have been facing other threats such as habitat clearing, car strikes, dog attacks, disease and dryer leaves to eat due to climate change.
Hopefully, moving into the future, we’ll have a network through which we can rescue more animals faster and get them the treatment and care they need to go back into the wild sooner. Protecting our natural habitat is vital, as is supporting the important work that organisations such as Phillip Island Nature Parks do. We need to future-proof now so that we're prepared for more emergencies later.
For more information on the work Phillip Island Nature Parks does visit: www.penguins.org.au
Last summer's fires saw the largest single loss of wildlife in modern history. Many struggling Australian species have now been pushed even further towards the brink of extinction. Donate today to help our precious wildlife and habitats recover from this disaster.