Hit-and-run koala Chaddie's plight just tip of the iceberg
IMBIL hit-and-run victim Chaddie the koala remains in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Australia Zoo wildlife hospital this week, but the two brothers who drive the rescue service that helped save his life say Chaddie's plight is just the tip of the iceberg.
Chaddie was found dazed and injured, sitting in the middle of the Kandanga Imbil Rd late at night last month after being hit and dragged by a car. He was rescued by the Francis family, who called the Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue group which drove up from the coast to take Chaddie to the hospital.
Down-to-earth motor mechanic Murray Chambers and his smash-repair brother Ray are the driving force behind the rescue service, a very small, Caloundra-based group that retrieves sick and injured koalas from throughout the Gympie region, South Burnett, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Bribie Island, out to Dalby and beyond.
Since its inception five years ago, the volunteer group has received a one-off government grant of $5000, although Murray estimates he and his brother spend an average of $2000 a month on fuel alone.
They use their own four-wheel drives for their retrievals, are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and "will go anywhere" if there is a koala that needs their help.
Such is their passion that Ray risked his own life to drive a total of 10 hours and ford perilous floodwaters near Tara during the 2012 floods, only to have the koala he had successfully retrieved die as he pulled up in the driveway of the wildlife hospital.
"We are the only koala rescue group that has no boundaries and will do tree climbs," Murray said this week. "And it doesn't matter what time - we get a call at 3am, we are gone."
The pair are regularly called to transport koalas from the Gympie region, though they say the once-stronger koala populations at Widgee, Goomboorian, Imbil and Kandanga are dwindling due to loss of habitat, few wildlife corridors, domestic dogs, wild dogs and disease.
Local councils are not doing enough to control the wild dog problem, Murray said.
"To be honest with you, everything is against them and the government just doesn't seem to care. It's definitely getting worse. No question about it."
Murray and Ray grew up on the Sunshine Coast after relocating with their family as young children from Melbourne.
The love they had for their pet dogs as children motivated them to volunteer at the Australia Zoo wildlife hospital when they got older, and to then undertake a trainee rescue course with the Moreton Bay Koala Rescue group before starting up the Sunshine Coast group.
Anyone interested in joining or supporting Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue can find out more at http://www.sckoalarescue.com.au.
They can also email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.
If you find a koala that is sick or injured you can call the 24-hour rescue hotline: Murray on 0431 300 729 or Ray on 0423 618 740.