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Koala Country

Community spotlight: Cheyne Flanagan | Koala hospital director

22 Aug 2018
Community & partnerships

Cheyne Flanagan is the Clinical Director of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, a research facility that also treats injured and sick animals and attracts 100,000 tourists every year.


Cheyne Flanagan


"The hospital has been doing this work for 45 years, but when I joined 20 years ago it was a much smaller operation.

We have now grown into Port Macquarie’s second most popular tourist attraction and our research work has expanded substantially.

When it comes to research, we’ve learnt a lot, but we are still at the bottom of the mountain. We’re a long way from understanding, but what we do know is that the number one cause of the various health issues we see is habitat loss.

Diseases like Chlamydia are an alarm bell that koalas are under stress.

Human development is the biggest threat. Our koalas are becoming urban refugees. We’ve got to teach people to live with the bush around them.

The decline of the koala population is becoming self-evident around Port Macquarie. We used to have the biggest coastal population of koalas in NSW and we’d treat up to 250 animals each year. This year is the quietest it’s been. We’ve treated only 51 koalas and we’re half-way through the year.

I think everyone on earth wants to feel like they are doing something good for the planet.

We have 170 volunteers and they are a vital component. A good volunteer is someone who’s sensitive and hardworking. You’ve got to have common sense and not be too emotional. On average, we save only 8 koalas out of 10 we see.

In the koala community across NSW we have good relationships and we share things and learn from each other.

This is my job, and some days are tough but it’s also very rewarding.”