John Oliver is now the patron saint of koalas in Queensland thanks to a new koala chlamydia ward that has opened at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital named in his honour. The dedication comes courtesy of Russell Crowe, who named the hospital space after Oliver as pay back; the comedian and television host bought a jockstrap Crowe wore in the 2005 movie Cinderella Man and donated it to a struggling Alaskan Blockbuster Video store.
Oliver himself professed shock at the announcement, saying on his show Last Week Tonight that he could now “quit” the weekly comedy program. “We have accomplished everything we set out to do on this show,” he said.
While many including Oliver see the funny side of the tribute, chlamydia poses a serious threat to wild Koalas in south-east Queensland, causing blindness, infertility and sometimes death. The disease is also becoming more common in wild koalas as climate change and habitat destruction restrict the areas they can live in. This increases their chances of coming into contact with infected animals.
An Australia Zoo representative stressed to Broadsheet the importance of funding for koala chlamydia wards. The wild koalas treated at the facility must be kept separate from the zoo’s “clean” koalas.
At the John Oliver Koala Chlamydia Ward a new vaccine will be given to koalas before they are returned to the wild.
Russell Crowe is a close friend of Australia Zoo owner Terri Irwin, and the donation is part of his ongoing work with the zoo’s Wildlife Hospital; in April he purchased an endoscope machine worth $50,000, which helps vets remove fishing hooks from turtles without the need for invasive surgery, drastically improving their chances of survival.