Zoos Victoria and RSPCA Victoria are joining forces to build a new, world-class veterinary facility for sick and injured koalas and other precious wildlife.
The $1.84million koala hospital will be built at Werribee Open Range Zoo, with a staggering $1.3million coming from generous donations made to RSPCA Victoria during last summer’s devastating bushfires. The remaining costs will be funded through Zoos Victoria.
Werribee Open Range Zoo’s location, facilities and scope for expansion position it as the ideal home for the new medical facility. The Zoo is located in the heart of Melbourne’s west, a bushfire-prone region with significant wildlife and koala populations. The new koala hospital will treat wildlife from the western regions of the state and complement the existing wildlife hospitals at Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo.
Once complete, the new hospital will increase the Zoo’s capacity to care for koalas, native birds, reptiles and mammals in Victoria’s western regions by up to 400%. It will also equip Zoos Victoria’s team of wildlife experts with greater resources to respond during bushfire emergencies.
RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker thanked the charity’s bushfire appeal donors for making the new hospital possible and said she looked forward to combining the expertise of the RSPCA and Zoos Victoria to change the face of wildlife care in Victoria.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Zoos Victoria to build a new, state of the art koala hospital for Victoria – made possible by the generous donors who supported our bushfire appeal last summer. With our joint expertise in animal welfare and wildlife care, we will increase the capacity to care for koalas and other vulnerable wildlife populations in Victoria’s west and across our state, during emergencies and at other times.”
Zoos Victoria CEO Dr Jenny Gray said she was excited to join forces with RSPCA Victoria to bring this really important project to life.
“We’re thankful for RSPCA Victoria’s generous support,” Dr Gray said. “This alignment will allow us to provide expert, compassionate care to more sick, injured and bushfire-affected wildlife in a region where we are seeing this need grow year on year.”
The announcement follows last summer’s devastating bushfire season where Zoos Victoria’s veterinary teams treated and rehabilitated bushfire-affected wildlife, and RSPCA Victoria deployed its Mobile Animal Care Unit and support staff to triage locations. Both organisations continue to actively support communities and animals through the recovery.
There is a strong need for emergency wildlife services in the western region with the number of koalas and other injured wildlife requiring treatment increasing by a staggering 650% over the past five years. This increase is attributed to urban sprawl in the region and rising community awareness about the medical services that Werribee Open Range Zoo’s vets provide for wildlife.
Construction of the facility is slated to commence in early 2021 and a large eucalypt browse plantation has already been planted that can provide a critical food source for koalas and wildlife whilst they are in care.
The koala hospital will be constructed to allow Zoo visitors to see staff undertaking their wildlife conservation work and help foster care and respect for wildlife.
This latest partnership between Zoos Victoria and RSPCA Victoria builds upon a strong existing relationship. In 2018, the organisations jointly launched Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife, an initiative that provides cat owners with advice, tips, and tools to help their felines live a happy life indoors – enabling local wildlife to freely roam and flourish.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is temporarily closed to members and visitors, but animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home.