Swiss born Susanne Scheuter started travelling 20 years ago and has enjoyed every moment of it.
“I have seen many different places around the world, but when I first visited the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie 19 years ago, I fell in love and knew that someday I would return to work with these wonderful animals,” Susanne said.
In 2014, Susanne booked a trip from her home in Switzerland to volunteer at the koala hospital. She returned another four times, before moving here permanently a year ago.
Susanne is now Team Leader and the Co-ordinator of the Souvenir Kiosk, working with a team of 170 volunteers to rescue, rehabilitate and release sick and injured koalas.
Established in 1973, the hospital is a licensed Koala Rehabilitation Facility with eight Intensive Care Units and yards that can house up to 100 koalas. Volunteers run guided tours at 3pm daily.
Susanne’s background in marketing and management have been a great asset to the hospital. In Switzerland, Susanne owned and managed the leading concept store for specialised bikes.
“As Team Leader, I am in charge of organising a team of volunteers in the daily cleaning and setting up of yards, leaf cutting, feeding koalas and many and varied household jobs, such as washing towels and mopping floors. Team Leaders learn to do basic treatment and assist the on-duty supervisor. We also do rescues and releases when required.”
Susanne enjoys the social environment at the koala hospital, working alongside people who share her passion for the survival of wildlife. In the kiosk, Susanne enjoys meeting visitors from all over the world with happy smiles and positive comments.
Working closely with the koalas is a real highlight.
“It is so great to see all those wonderful furry faces, and it is even better when you find that a critical koala has pulled through,” Susanne said.
For Susanne, the best part of her job is releasing koalas after they have been cared for.
“To see them run off and up a tree back to their environment is really wonderful.”
The job also has its challenges, and the team is always ready to respond to a call from the public about a koala that needs rescuing.
“We need to assess each situation carefully. Sometimes it is a simple catch and return; other times we need assistance from the local police to stop traffic for a safe capture. On some occasions we need a cherry picker to get up high into a tree.”
Sadly, there are also occasions when a koala doesn’t make it.
“We cannot save every one, but we try our hardest.”
Susanne also finds time to volunteer for FAWNA, helping to rescue and care for a variety of native wildlife.
“I encourage everyone to get out there and do some voluntary work. It is a very rewarding thing to do. The koala hospital is always looking for new volunteers.”
7:00am Arrive at the Koala Hospital, unlock, check all the koalas, get the leaf sorted and placed on the cutting tables, allocate yard numbers to the team and get the supplement food ready.
8:00am Team have arrived. Start the bookwork and assist the Supervisor On-Duty. Help yard workers. The yard work can take between 2 – 3 hours, depending how many koalas we have in.
11:00am Check all the work has been finished and extra jobs done; make sure the koalas are OK. Complete the daybook and charts.
11:45am German speaking tour, around once a month. 30 minute Walk & Talk through the Koala Hospital in German. Groups vary from seven to 40 people.
Otherwise, Kiosk work, which includes reordering, data entry, unpacking delivered boxes of goods, labelling and putting into storage, restocking shelves and catching up with the kiosk workers.
4:30pm Close the office and go home.