biggy pop sings support for matilda

2048 2560 In Good Company | Northern Rivers

Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital
419 Hinterland Way, Knockrow, NSW 2479

Visit Ballina Northern Rivers-01
biggy pop sings support for matilda

In 2020, Iggy Pop received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys; in the same year his pet cockatoo, named Biggy Pop, became the founding patron of Byron Wildlife Hospital. One was a profound honour for the former Stooges singer that he will no doubt treasure for the rest of his days; the other was a Grammy Award.

It’s not every Northern Rivers business that can boast an association with one of the most famous names in rock and roll history. But then again, perhaps only in the Northern Rivers could such a thing happen. Byron Wildlife Hospital’s connection with Iggy came about through its relationship with Bluesfest: based on Iggy owning Biggy Pop, the hospital asked if the singer’s “feathered bestie” would represent them, and he duly obliged.

It’s a nice story (and even made global news through coverage by US music media giants, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and others), but this is all secondary to the work Byron Wildlife Hospital does around the Byron Shire and beyond. This is Australia’s largest mobile wildlife hospital, and the only one licensed by the Australian Veterinary Association. The hospital was launched in 2020 after a successful crowdfunding campaign, and operates from a permanent base at Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at Knockrow – formerly the Macadamia Castle tourist attraction, which was sold to a group called Wildlife Recovery Australia, a joint venture between Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital and environmental charity, the Odonata Foundation.

Conceived and launched by vets Dr Stephen Van Mil and Dr Evan Kosack, Byron Wildlife Hospital exists to provide dedicated, expert veterinarian services to wildlife, free of charge. The full-sized semi-trailer, dubbed Matilda, can be transported to where disastrous events are occurring and affecting wildlife on a large scale.

“It has 22 wheels, its own solar panels, deep cell batteries and a satellite for telecommunications,” says Dr Van Mil, who is also the founder and CEO. “It can be rushed to a natural disaster to provide triage and critical care for injured, orphaned and traumatised native animals.”

Members of the public and licensed wildlife carers can bring injured, sick and orphaned animals to the Knockrow sanctuary for treatment. The hospital employs two full-time vets (foundation vet Dr Bree Talbot and associate vet Dr Chantal Whitten), two vet nurses, five admin staff and the CEO. It also relies on several volunteers across various roles.

The catastrophic floods of early 2022 have illustrated the essential need for such a hospital.

“On a normal day of operations, outside of the flood disaster, we can see between two and 20 patients a day,” says Dr Whitten. “Between the two flooding events we saw a steady flow of wildlife patients needing emergency assessment and treatment for conditions that were a direct result of the flood event.

“Predominant species affected by the floods included echidnas, bandicoots, possums, water birds, sea birds, freshwater turtles, and reptiles.”

Byron Wildlife Hospital was not quite up and running when the Black Summer bushfires tore through the landscape across 2019 and 2020 – but the fires did speed up the process of raising money and getting set up. “Black Summer validated the need, and our crowdfunding campaign,” says Dr Van Mil. “To build Australia’s largest mobile wildlife hospital resonated strongly with the public after three billion native animals were killed during that event.”

Byron Wildlife Hospital is a not-for-profit company governed by a skills-based board. It is owned by the afore-mentioned Wildlife Recovery Australia, and funded by philanthropy, public donations, sponsorship and merchandise sales. It receives no government funding, despite providing services to wildlife, which are legally the property of the Crown in NSW.

The hospital enjoys important partnerships with many local organisations, such as Ballina RSL, Cape Byron Distillery and Seven Mile Brewing, as well as international organisations International Fund for Animal Welfare, WWF and the United Nations Development Program. Such a strong international profile is helped along by Biggy Pop. “Biggy and Iggy both spread the word about their support for our work on social media, which is hugely valuable to build awareness globally,” says Director of Marketing and Partnerships Russell Mills.

Specific recent support from both the NRMA and iFAW has been crucial in setting up the hospital’s latest initiative: rescue kits for the public to help animals found injured on the roads. “The kits sold out quickly, and we are now selling more to the public via our website,” says Russell.

Russell emphasises that the hospital relies on the support of the general public and the business community for donations to cover the costs of expert vet care, equipment, medicine, food and hospitalisation, all of which costs $555 per wildlife patient. People can make a tax-deductible donation via the website:

“Biggy and Iggy both spread the word about their support for our work on social media, which is hugely valuable to build awareness globally”

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