Koalas win by one

‘Save our Koalas’ to re­ceive $176 913 from Pick My Project

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Tansey

Pure ela­tion was the nat­u­ral emo­tion felt by Kylee Donkers af­ter hear­ing the ‘Save our Koalas’ project had re­ceived Pick My Project fund­ing.

Ms Donkers and her band of loyal vol­un­teers at Koona Wonga Wildlife Res­cue have been out in force for months try­ing to bring the project to fruition through rais­ing aware­ness of a plague which has seen the koala pop­u­la­tion struck down by sca­bies.

Hard work paid off, with 219 votes enough to see the project the only one se­lected within Moira Shire.

Last Mon­day, the good news fil­tered through to Mrs Donkers, but it was not de­liv­ered in the way it was in­tended.

‘‘One of our vol­un­teers, Louise Green­wood, ac­tu­ally put in the fund­ing sub­mis­sion on our be­half and she got an email say­ing we were suc­cess­ful but she wasn’t go­ing to tell me be­cause she wanted to come out to the shel­ter af­ter work and shower me with cham­pagne and break the good news,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

‘‘But then I had Matt Dowl­ing from ABC ra­dio ring me to see whether I’d go on the break­fast show that morn­ing and talk about Pick My Project.

‘‘I didn’t know what was go­ing on and then he turned around and said, ‘oh, you don’t know yet, do you’ — so yes, it came as a quite a shock,’’ she said.

Mrs Donkers was thank­ful for the leg work done by Ms Green­wood.

‘‘She has done the ma­jor­ity of the work. She’s been down at Wool­lies ev­ery day hand­ing out fly­ers for peo­ple to vote for us, her fam­ily have done a power of work to make sure we were suc­cess­ful,’’ she said.

She also said the project would never have been suc­cess­ful if it was not for the com­mu­nity’s care and sup­port.

‘‘We have to thank the com­mu­nity mas­sively be­cause we only got in by one vote, it was very lucky.’’

The project will re­ceive $176 913 to de­liver ed­u­ca­tion around sick koalas as well as the means to hope­fully re­ha­bil­i­tate them in the fu­ture.

Koona Wonga can now buy a dis­play in­for­ma­tion trailer, which will be taken to mar­kets and schools to help ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity on the dan­gers be­ing faced by koalas.

‘‘The big­gest thing it is ac­tu­ally go­ing to fund is the koala counts and a big koala fes­ti­val which we’re hop­ing to run in town,’’ Mrs Donkers said.

‘‘If it all goes to plan, we will be able to raise enough money at that fes­ti­val to get re­searchers in­volved.’’

❝We have to thank the com­mu­nity mas­sively be­cause we only got in by one vote, it was very lucky.❞ — Kylee Donkers

Money will also go to fund­ing a res­cue trailer, al­low­ing Koona Wonga staff to go out and res­cue koalas.

It will also help the shel­ter build a quar­an­tine and treat­ment en­clo­sure as treat­ing the koalas so far has proved vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble be­cause sca­bies is so con­ta­gious and is a risk to other an­i­mals and hu­mans.

Mrs Donkers said $30 000 still needed to be raised to help re­searchers to come to the area and study how sca­bies is af­fect­ing the koala pop­u­la­tion.

‘‘We are work­ing re­ally closely with in­sti­tu­tions such as Mel­bourne Univer­sity, Syd­ney Univer­sity and Taronga Zoo’s in­fec­tious dis­ease depart­ment, it’s not just us that is in­volved in the project,’’ she said.

Mrs Donkers said the prob­lem had the po­ten­tial to spread Aus­tralia-wide if not man­aged prop­erly.

‘‘It’s not just iso­lated to this area, they’re hav­ing trou­ble with sca­bies down in Gipp­s­land, War­rnam­bool, South Aus­tralia and NSW,’’ she said.

‘‘With this fund­ing be­hind us, hope­fully we can be big­ger and bet­ter and raise those funds for re­searchers a lit­tle bit quicker.’’

Mrs Donkers was un­sure when and how the money would be dis­trib­uted.

Sealed with a kiss: Koon­aWonga Wildlife Res­cue’s Save our Koalas fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tion was suc­cess­ful in Pick My Project. Pic­tured is Dutch Thun­der Wildlife Shel­ter owner Kylee Donkers.

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