Bushfires and blue paint, the story of koalas in Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie is home to a native koala population. In the aftermath of the 2019-2020 bushfires, international awareness has been drawn to dwindling population numbers. Meet Froggy, our resident Cassegrain Wines koala helping to raise awareness of koala conservation in NSW.

 If you have visited our winery, you would have met our resident koala, Froggy. For those of you who haven’t, he’s a 1-metre-high fibreglass sculpture painted by Paris-based Port Macquarie artist Sophie Corcoran.

Froggy at the eiffel tower
Artist Sophie Corcoran painted Froggy the Koala in Paris

Hello Koalas

Froggy was created in 2014 as part of the Hello Koalas project that aimed to increase awareness of Port Macquarie’s local koala population via public art installations and a citywide sculpture trail. Throughout Port Macquarie, 50 koala sculptures popped up in public parks and buildings, and outside private businesses, each of them uniquely decorated by a different artist.

“I am truly honoured to be painting Froggy the Koala for the Cassegrain Wines, as part of the Hello Koalas project,” Sophie said. “John Cassegrain has always been such a huge part of the Greater Port Macquarie community and to be included in the Sculpture Trail is just incredible. I love and miss Port Macquarie, so to be a part of this is a great privilege for me.”

Sophie first moved to Paris in 2012. At the time, she didn’t speak the language and experienced a culture clash. Sophie learnt very quickly that living in France was very different to Port Macquarie: “I must admit, I do miss that wonderful outdoor Port Macquarie lifestyle, going for a swim in the surf every morning and of course, sun!” she said.

Froggy and the Cassegrain story: From France to Australia

While our family is now an important part of the Port Macquarie community, we have a proud history of winemaking in France dating back to 1643. Froggy reflects our heritage – hand-painted by Sophie in France with colourful scenes from Paris. The design Sophie created for Froggy is called ‘Wrapped in Paris’ and it conveys the beauty and intensity of Paris while also portraying that you can be completely overwhelmed and engulfed in its history, monuments, art and culture. Froggy’s blue background represents Paris at twilight, when the sky turns to an incredible shade of royal blue and suddenly the City of Lights appears in glowing shades of yellow and orange. Sound familiar? The colours are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s famous artwork Starry Night.

The innovative Hello Koalas project captured the imagination of visitors and locals alike, and today the Koala Sculpture Trail is one of the major highlights for anyone visiting Port Macquarie. Koalas are synonymous with the region – Port Macquarie is home to the only koala hospital in the world and Billabong Zoo, which has an accredited koala breeding program. Today, the colourful fibreglass koalas are an important reminder of the need to actively protect Australia’s native koala population, which is now classified as endangered due to a dwindling population.

Protecting koalas in Port Macquarie

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a year-long NSW parliamentary inquiry has found koalas are on track to become extinct in the wild in NSW well before 2050 without urgent intervention to stop the destruction of their habitat. The perfect storm of dwindling habitat, climate change and mega-bushfires means that koalas are under dire threat, and Port Macquarie is ground zero for koala conservation.

After the 2019-2020 bushfires, as heart-wrenching images of burnt and dehydrated koalas emerging from singed landscapes and drinking from suburban swimming pools spread around the world on the internet and social media feeds, the world’s attention focused on the koala crisis. Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, journalist Stephanie Wood said the koala became a global symbol of environmental grief and fear. She wrote: “Prayers and messages of love rained down. So did money. Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital created a GoFundMe account with a $25,000 goal and got nearly $8 million.”

But despite the international spotlight the 2019-2020 Summer bushfires shone on the urgency of the species’ plight, one year on, governments have taken little true action to protect the marsupial and its habitat, Stephanie reported. As we celebrate Froggy’s sixth year in Australia, we encourage you to support Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital and Billabong Zoo, two significant local organisations that are taking leaps to protect and boost this precious native population in peril.

How can you help save the koalas?

The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie runs a koala adoption program, and you can visit the hospital to see first-hand their rehabilitation work. Bookings are essential as it’s one of the most popular things to do in Port Macquarie.

Alternatively, Billabong Zoo is a koala and wildlife park in the area, set on 10-acres of bushland. On your visit, you can check out the work they are doing at the world renowned koala breeding centre, and sponsor or adopt a koala to support their breeding program.

Read more…

To learn more about visiting Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and Billabong Zoo, and to plan your visit to Port Macquarie, read our guide on Things To Do in Port Macquarie.  Alternatively come and visit our Cellar Door and take a selfie with Froggy!

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