Monday (January 9th): First full day of volunteering at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Giovanna is assigned to “Birds” (Cockatoos, Kookaburra’s, Parrots, etc.) and Eric will be on “Mammals” (Wombats, Dingos, Golden Bushtail Possum, etc.). High temperature for the day is 31deg Celsius (87deg Fahrenheit).
Thursday (January 12th): Giovanna is assigned “Mammals” and Eric gets “Macropods” (Kangaroos, Wallabies, Random birds such as Emus and Tawny Frogmouth, etc.). High temperature for the day is 33deg Celsius (91deg Fahrenheit).
Friday (January 13th): We are both assigned Koala duty!! Also with Koalas is Lorikeet Parrots and some other random animals. High temperature for the day is 34deg Celsius (93deg Fahrenheit).
Saturday (January 14th): There was a limited amount of volunteers today, so each of us got our choice of which area of the park we wanted to be in. Giovanna picked “Macropods” and Eric picked “The Barn” (pigs, chickens, sheep, etc.). High temperature for the day is 33deg Celsius (91deg Fahrenheit). We have decided this will be our last day of volunteering as we are preparing to depart Brisbane and need time to plan our next adventures.
What an amazing “inside” opportunity we had to meet some of the native animals to Australia. This entire experience we had at Lone Pine was completely due to Giovanna’s persistence with getting us in the door. She spent weeks sending emails and making phone calls to get their attention. Ultimately she prevailed, and made our trip all the more better! Lone Pine has an established volunteer program where one (in some cases two) volunteer(s) is paired with a keeper to help with a specific species of animal for the day. Ideally, each volunteer will spend a day with each group of animals. Ultimately it was our intent to spend most of our time with the Koalas. The work was not incredibly hard, and generally consisted of cleaning each of the animals habitat, preparing food and feeding the animals. The most difficult aspect of the job was the heat. There were several times when the temperature spiked to 100deg F. Anytime I had work outside, I looked like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown (sweaty and stinky). The incredible moments came when we got to feed the animals. I got to hand feed a Dingo, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Kookaburras and the cute Golden Bushtail Possum. Additionally prepared food for Wombats, Echidna and setup eucalyptus for the Koala’s. We patiently awaited our day to help out with the Koala’s, and it was well received when the day arrived. It was easy to help the little guys as their habitats do not need a lot of upkeep and they just chomp down on Eucalyptus leaves for the few hours out of the day they are awake. Some of the trainers also gave us the opportunity to pet/hold a few of them as well. I was so happy to see how overcome with excitement Giovanna was when holding them. Every drop of sweat was worth seeing the excitement on her face. This was arguably the best experience I’ve had since being in Australia. The other contending moment was when we saw our first Koala in the wild….go figure.
As much as I want to go on and on about how I held a koala *or 2* and how wonderful they are at cuddling *OMG I can’t even with those furry little white butts! I just wish I could hold one all day long! It’s so fluffy!!!!*, that is not what this is about. It is about so much more than that. Confusion, doubts, love, etc. So I will start here: Animal Sanctuaries, how much of a sanctuary are they really? After spending a few days volunteering at Lone Pine I didn’t feel like I was really contributing to a cause more like a zoo. I understand that LPS was first created due to the near extinction of koalas and that I respect but over the past several years I feel it has gone from bring the koala species back to a zoo where koalas are forced to spend 30 minutes a day posing in photos with strangers form all over the world (yes, I was one of those strangers and the moment was very magical, one I will cherish forever but now I feel guilty hints this post). What kind of life is that really? The average koala spends 20 hours sleeping and 4 hours eating a day so all they do is sleep and eat *which is a lifestyle I really admire*. Meaning they don’t really need a lot of space or require free roaming time because they don’t get off their butt too often. So I guess it doesn’t really bother them being woken up once a day to be handle by strangers? I guess it doesn’t really interrupt their sleep patterns having obnoxious tourist yelling at them in efforts to wake them up? I guess being given fresh eucalyptus every day vs having to travel to find it when all you wanna do is sleep, isn’t so bad? *They are given fresh eucalyptus every day and based on their preference, they are given different varieties of eucalyptus because that is a thing. Who knew?* I do understand that the koalas don’t really have a place in the wild where they can live safely so being at LPS is probably the best for them. I will mention that all of the koalas at LPS have been born there so they don’t know anything different from captivity but I can’t help but wonder if they would love life a little more in the wild?
While working with the other animals at LPS, the animals who have been brought to LPS due to health reasons, I was able to see the love that the keepers have for the animals they are caring for. For example, one of the emus and her keeper have a very special bond and spend hours cuddling which was very beautiful to witness. But that same emu is in a free range enclosure where tourist enter and are all in her face trying to taking selfies with her. So it seems to be a bitter sweet setup for some of the animals.
Overall, my experience was educational and I am grateful for the memories. If I could buy a big piece of land for the 100+ koalas that live at LPS to live freely I definitely would because every creature deserves to live the life they want verse the life they are given.
“Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” –Gordon B. Hinckley