Byron Bay Wildlife hospital launched

Tex Perkins, Luke Hemsworth, Dr Stephen Van Mil (Founder and CEO), Jon Farriss and Elyse Knowles
Tex Perkins, Luke Hemsworth, Dr Stephen Van Mil (Founder and CEO), Jon Farriss and Elyse Knowles

The Byron Bay Wildlife hospital was the idea of two friends, vets as it happens, who were working to save orangutans in Borneo .

Luke Hemsworth, Jon Farriss and Tex Perkins, and Elyse Knowles alongside comedians Jimeoin, Lochie Daddo and Magdalena Roze all lent their support to the northern NSW facility.

Iggy Pop's rescue cockatoo, Biggy Pop, introduced a live auction that raised $50,000 for the hospital's ongoing operations.

The $700,000 facility will sit on gifted land, while it is not driving to areas to facilitate immediate response to injured and traumatised native animals, such as the bushfires that killed three billion animals last year.

"It is not the place that makes the place, but the people that make the place," was the message from organisers at the launch of Australia's largest mobile wildlife hospital this week.

Photo: LisaG Photography

Photo: LisaG Photography

At a sell out fundraiser in front of over two hundred donors, philanthropists, conservation organisations, entertainers and celebrity guests, it was evident "anything is possible when a community comes together".

Founder and CEO Dr. Stephen Van Mil said the past six months had been a "wild ride".

He was thrilled to have secured global support from organisations such as United Nations, the World Wide Fund for Nature and National Parks & Wildlife.

When did you first conceive of hospital and why?

The idea was first conceived two years ago following a few beers and a chat with colleague Dr Evan Kosack.

All across Australia, wildlife are presented to veterinary clinics every day. Generally the practitioners are very busy dealing with clients and patients, and wildlife are usually examined free of charge at the end of the day, or cursorily during the day.

What is it about being a wildlife service as opposed to treating other animals?

There is very little to no training for Australian wildlife during Veterinary Science courses across Australian universities.

There are hundreds and hundreds of mammasl, bird, reptile, amphibian and marine species presented.

The anatomy and physiology of all of them is completely different. Most need to be anaesthetised simply to allow full examination. Medications/pharmacology is completely different too. We can see anything from a tiny sugar glider to a green sea turtle to a pelican to a sea lion or whale!

MOBILISED BOARD: Dr Larry Vogelnest, Gerry Lambert, Meadow Greenwood, Dr Stephen Van Mil, Dr Evan Kosack, Dr David Blyde. (Chair)

MOBILISED BOARD: Dr Larry Vogelnest, Gerry Lambert, Meadow Greenwood, Dr Stephen Van Mil, Dr Evan Kosack, Dr David Blyde. (Chair)

Why have you started it in The Northern Rivers?

The Northern Rivers is one of the most wildlife dense regions of Australia. Wildlife here are suffering with habitat destruction, increasing human populations, more domestic pets, more feral pests (wild dogs, cane toads, foxes etc), more cars on the roads - then throw in a bushfire, a flood, a drought.

Across the border, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital is the busiest wildlife hospital in the world - 12,000 admissions last year, with approximately one third of those coming from Northern Rivers NSW. So the need for a dedicated Wildlife Hospital in this region was absolute.

Byron Bay Willdife Hospital commenced services in September with Dr Bree Talbot, who for the past six years ran the University of Sydney Wildlife Clinic in Camden. She is assisted by Wildlife Veterinary Nurse Hayley Corrigan. The initial base is within Lennox Head Veterinary Clinic, which will now run overflow wards.

What role does a mobile hospital play in the treatment of our wildlife in the future?

The hospital's primary service area is the 20,000 square kilometres of the Northern Rivers but it has the capacity to be deployed anywhere during times of wildlife crisis.

We have already commenced designs for a bricks and mortar dedicated Wildlife Hospital for the region. When that is completed, the Mobile Hospital will move to another region.

Anything like it anywhere else in the world?

The hospital was custom designed by local architect Fiona Gibson alongside Evan Kosack and myself, and built by Grant Gasnier of Vansite on the Gold Coast.

Sydney Wildlife Clinic has a small mobile unit. Our facility is literally a full veterinary hospital on wheels.

It is completely self contained with solar panels, deep cell batteries and a generator, and water holding tanks and waste water collection tanks - it doesn't need to plug or plumb into anything - it can literally arrive anywhere and be operational within minutes.

Internally is has a reception/consultation area, treatment areas, X-rays, ultrasound, anaesthesia, pharmacy; hospital cages and intensive care facilities; and a dedicated sterile surgery suite.

It is the largest mobile wildlife hospital in the world!

Photo: Kirra Pendergast

Photo: Kirra Pendergast

This story Celebs support world-first mobile wildlife hospital first appeared on Northern Rivers Review.