Preparing Victoria for future wildlife emergencies, the RSPCA Koala Ward at Werribee Open Range Zoo is now complete and will be fully operational and able to accept injured wildlife prior to the summer bushfire season.
The $2.55million veterinary facility was made possible by significant philanthropic support, including $1.5million in generous donations made to RSPCA Victoria during the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.
The RSPCA Koala Ward consists of two large recovery wards, two fully equipped surgery rooms, a neonatal room, food preparation zone, sterilisation room, pharmacy facilities, hay shed, browse fridge, and a quiet room for injured wildlife waiting to be admitted or recovering from surgery.
Twelve outdoor recovery zones have also been built next to the hospital to house injured koalas and other wildlife during their rehabilitation. A large browse plantation at Werribee Open Range Zoo will provide a critical food source.
Zoos Victoria CEO Dr Jenny Gray said the RSPCA Koala Ward at Werribee Open Range Zoo will increase capacity to provide expert, compassionate care for sick and injured koalas, native birds, reptiles and mammals in Victoria’s bushfire-prone western regions by up to 400 per cent.
“These world-class facilities will better equip our team of wildlife experts with the resources they need to respond during extreme, climate-related emergencies,” Dr Gray said.
It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 koalas is Victoria, compared to northern Australian states where koala numbers are declining. Koalas are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they are prone to heat-related stress and dehydration and are poorly adapted to cope with increased temperatures and severe heat events.
As the need for emergency wildlife care continues to grow, it has never been more important to ensure Victoria’s koala population is protected, healthy and sustainable.
RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker said she is incredibly pleased to show those who donated to the Black Summer bushfire appeal how their generosity will help native wildlife in Victoria.
“By collaborating with Zoos Victoria and combining resources, our collective effort will better support Victoria’s wildlife in cases of emergency.
“The RSPCA Koala Ward at Werribee Open Range Zoo will future-proof Victoria to ensure wildlife can receive required care, both during emergencies and at other times,” Dr Walker said.
The RSPCA Koala Ward expands Zoos Victoria’s existing wildlife hospital network, including Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo, and furthers the state’s ability to treat and care for precious wildlife during future disasters and emergency wildlife care requirements.