23 Apr 2020


Story of Frankie the koala - Mallacoota, Victoria bushfires

Frankie the koala was found in the aftermath of the Mallacoota fires that raged a path of destruction in Victoria.

He was found injured and then treated by specialist vets and carers. After intensive treatment, he was transported to Phillip Island Nature Parks where he’s undergoing rehabilitation before he can hopefully be released back into the wild.

Thanks to the generosity of WWF supporters around the world, we’ve been able to support Phillip Island Nature Parks in building a special sanctuary for wildlife impacted by the bushfires.

Frankie arrived on the island in early March and since then he’s made himself at home. We spoke to Roland Pick, Head of International Sales and Communications, from Phillip Island Nature Parks:

Q: So How is Frankie doing, has he settled in okay?

A: Frankie is doing great here. His fur is starting to grow back from where it was singed off in the fires, and he’s been exploring his new area, building confidence all the time. He’s actually climbing so much and so high we have to fence off some of the trees.

He’s also doing a good job of trying to eat us out of house and home. This young koala loves his food. He’s put on a kilogram already since he’s been here, which is a great result. He’s a young koala just over 1 year old, so he still has a bit of growing to do.

To continue to support WWF-Australia's bushfire recovery work:

Q: What are the next steps for Frankie and the other bushfire impacted koalas you have in care?

A: Koalas like Frankie have come to Phillip Island Nature Parks from wildlife hospitals like Zoos Victoria when they’re mostly recovered from their injuries caused by the devastating bushfires.

The WWF funded sanctuary allows them to finish their physical and mental recovery. We do see signs of mental trauma in koalas when they’ve gone through something as bad as the recent bushfires and that can take longer than their physical injuries to heal. We hope to be able to release all of the wild koalas, but sometimes their mental or physical injuries are too great for them to ever thrive in the wild again, so they may have to stay in care with us.

Their homes also need time to recover. The Mallacoota area where Frankie was found was absolutely devastated by the fires. While we’re starting to see hopeful signs of new growth on the trees, it could be a few years until the habitat is able to have enough food and shelter to support the koalas. Once we’re confident that their injuries are healed and their homes are restored, we’d love to see them back in the wild.

Q: How are your food supplies for koalas going? Are you able to access food with all the new social distancing measures in place?

A: Thankfully COVID-19 hasn’t impacted our food supplies for the animals at all. Even though Frankie is trying to eat everything he can, we have our own eucalyptus plantations that we harvest for the tasty branches and leaves our koalas in care enjoy. We’re also really grateful for the support of Western Port Water whose plantations have provided us with supplementary leaves, as well as local landcare groups and land holders. Plus we’re planting more trees for the long-term to support koalas we have in care from the bushfires who, due to the extent of their injuries, may not be able to be released back to the wild.

Koalas are very fussy eaters, so we need as much variety in eucalyptus species as possible. The koalas like Frankie who have come to us from the wild need to eat the leaves they’re used to while they’re here with us, so we’re doing our best to give them the best diet possible.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

A: For the health and safety of our staff and guests and to help stop the spread of coronavirus, we’ve closed the parks for the time being. This means many of our front line staff who would usually be helping out guests have been reallocated to help with our ongoing conservation work.

Our work on-the-ground and in-the-field are our first priority, and we’re continuing to perform these tasks while adhering to the practices of physical distancing. We’re also using this time to collate and analyse data as well as go through archives of sensor camera images looking for feral cats. These are activities we often don’t get too much time to do, so having the time now for this important work is a small silver lining.

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.