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Koalas are under threat in many areas across Australia. The situation in South East Queensland is particularly concerning as urban growth puts them under constant pressure. Every day these precious, iconic animals are under threat from habitat loss, cars, dogs, bush fire and disease.

Queensland Koala Crusaders, along with many other conservation organisations, is working hard to slow the escalating and rapid decline in Australia’s wild koalas.  If nothing is done, extinction will result in the not-too-distant future.

Here is some information you might find helpful. Koalas are truly fascinating animals. We even have characteristics in common with them.



Recently there has been a lot of conversation around a koala sighting and we’d like to help increase everyone’s understanding of what’s happening with the wild koalas in our area - and how we can all help them. Here is a comprehensive overview so we hope you will take the time to read this through before reacting

First, assess if any of the the 3 D’s are present – Distress, Disease or (imminent) Danger.


If the koala is obviously injured, sitting at the bottom of a tree for a prolonged period or in clear danger from cars, dogs etc. please call 1 300 ANIMAL immediately and they will locate and send someone to assess and potentially collect the koala. The responding rescue team will not capture/move the koala if they don’t believe it is necessary – frequently a koala who turns up in an unusual location will move on if left alone (koala’s have been known to have quite suprisingly large ranges and under some conditions – such as young males seeking a new home range, males seeking females etc. - their travel is measured in kilometers not meters!

If there is no distress, danger or obvious signs of disease (more on that below), then enjoy and share the experience. Koala populations in the wild have crashed throughout their traditional home ranges and what was once a commonplace sight has become increasingly rare (something we are working to try and help change).

DO REPORT the koala sighting. There are a number of options but two sites that are run by locals and we refer to frequently are – KOALA TRACKER

Knowing where koalas have been seen informs our conversations with local and state organizations when discussing habitat preservation, road mitigation and science/health research.

Please take note of your exact coordinates (believe it or not it’s sometimes really hard to find a koala even when you know the tree they’ve been sighted in!). If you have a smart phone and a sat nav app you should be able to find this information quite easily.

If you want to do even more then collect a sample of their scat from under the tree (it’s really not at all gross). Please note as much detail as you can including date, time, location and physical observations and then contact us at Queensland Koala Crusaders and we will help get your sample to researchers who are studying koala genetic diversity and health (this is potentially one of the most important new initiatives if we are going to save the species as development has isolated the populations from each other).


This can be a difficult one – and one that is the most likely to cause confusion and misunderstandings.

A significant percentage of the population of wild koalas in our area are suffering from disease. Sometimes it can be quite obvious however it can also be hidden and/or the full extent only becomes clear with a comprehensive health check in the hospital.

If the koala has signs of Conjuntivitis (pink, crusty and/or swelling around the eyes) or  Cystitis (also known as “dirty bottom”) then please call 1 300 ANIMALS and they will undertake to get that koala into care. Leaving a sick koala in the wild because you enjoy seeing them in your local neighboorhood can not only be fatal to that koala but also threaten the health of the rest of the local population as well – adding even more difficulty to the already challenging effort to save them.

What happens when a sick koala is taken into hospital?

First, they are given a through health check. If caught in the early stages then treatment can be given and the koala is tagged (that’s why you may see a tag in a koala’s ear – it means they’ve been in for care at least once!). They may require a substantial time in care to ensure they are fully healthy (and there are many volunteer caregivers who help support the hospitals). The rescue team then has the joyous opportunity and responsiblity to return that koala to its home. Generally they will release the koala as close as possible to the original tree or surrounding area however if it was found on/near a busy road then it will be released in a safer location nearby (always within 5k as that is the law in Queensland).

“Your” koala may be eligible to participate in a vaccine trial as well (another initiative which we have been helping to support and promote) but currently this can only be undertaken in hospital. It’s early days yet, however preliminary indications are hopeful that this will be become a useful tool in reducing the incidence of disease in the wild koala populations - giving nature a chance to recover and populations to rebound.

Unfortunately, sometimes the koala has entered the latter stages of disease (again this is NOT always visible or obvious from just looking at them) – and may in fact be suffering quietly.

Recently for example, we received a call for a koala that had been sighted in Tewantin known as Barbie. Barbie was so skinny that she didn’t even weigh enough to trigger the spring release door on our trap – and she was assessed on initial presentation to the hospital with a body score of 1 (out of 10)! Clearly Barbie had been sick for some time however it was even worse than we knew – physical examination showed substantial disease and deformity in her internal organs and there was no way she could be returned to health. The painful decision to end her suffering was required (both for her sake and also the health of the remaining local population as noted previously). All the volunteers involved were incredibly sad to say the least.

Please be assured that everyone involved in the koala conservation effort passionately loves our wild koalas – and wants nothing more than to see them return in larger numbers so we can all enjoy their presence. Please take the time to consider that saving them is not a simple thing and that human development is forcing the local populations into smaller and smaller pockets – which are surrounded by dogs and cars and isolates them from other koala populations contributing to a decline in genetic diversity and a rise in disease.

Saving them requires a collaborative approach from many groups and includes addressing habitat loss, road mitigation, health and diversity iniatiatives and more. We are the source of their problem but only we can save them now.

In February 2022 koala populations in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT were listed as Endangered under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The change in status means an increased level of protection for koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

It is thought that from an original population of millions at white settlement, only 50- 80,000 koalas remain in the wild. Numbers have dropped by approximately 80% in the past 10 years.

In Queensland, the greatest concentration of koalas is in South East Queensland where they now compete for space with a rapidly growing human population.

Interesting (and sad) fact: Numbers dropped dramatically during the early 1900s when 4 million koalas were hunted for their fur.  Legislation stopped this in 1931.

Here’s a quote from the time by famous naturalist Ellis Troughton (1893-1974)

“A fellow feeling should make all Australians wondrous kind to the solemn little koalas, which should be granted perpetual free use of the trees as a national emblem, rather than butchered to make economic holidays.”

One might say nothing much has changed.

IUCN Red List detail

Male koalas are more robust in size and can be identified by an easy to spot, strong smelling scent gland on their chest (sternum) which they rub on trees to mark territory. Female koalas are smaller with a white chest and a backward facing pouch to protect their pouched young from crumbling tree bark when climbing from tree to tree.


Interesting fact: Koala nose markings are unique and can be used for identification.

The koala diet is almost exclusively eucalyptus leaf of which they will eat a variety depending on availability and location. They do however eat some wattles, bottle brush as well as casuarinas and Melaleuca quinquinerva (a paper bark) used for medicinal digestive purposes.  They need to consume about 500 gms of leaf a day. They will eat the several varieties prominent in their home range.


Eucalyptus is toxic to most creatures. The koala’s specialised digestive system  isolates toxins in the liver and excretes them as waste. A joey in the pouch will feed on the female version of this specialised waste called “pap” at around 3 to 4 months of age to build the necessary bacteria to digest eucalyptus. As eucalyptus leaves are low on nutrients and hard work to eat, koalas are fairly sedentary, sleeping high in trees during the day and waking up to feed, mate and travel at night as well as at dawn and dusk.

Interesting fact: Koalas, particularly males, are often quite mobile during the day so look out for them, particularly during mating season.

Males begin to breed at 3 to 4 years of age and females at 2 years producing a joey every year. Birth of a tiny 2 cm jelly bean sized joey takes place after 35 days gestation between June and December in Queensland. The tiny joey clambers into its mother’s pouch and attaches to the smaller of one of two teats, where it will stay until emerging at about 6 months to ride on mum’s back and be taught how to survive in the bush. Young are weaned at 12 months and depart to establish their own home ranges after 2 years.


Koalas can live for up to 12 years in the wild but this is now rare with the increasing incidence of dog attack, disease, bush fire and car strikes.

Interesting fact: Twins are rare but do occur. Similarly, rare blue eyed koalas exist.

Koalas drown in swimming pools if they tumble in when trying to drink during a drought. They can swim but will drown if they cannot get out of the pool. A tethered rope with a float gives a koala the chance to clamber out of the water.


Important fact: If a koala is drinking from a pool or obviously seeking water it may be unwell. Call your local koala rescue organisation for advice.

A few simple things can make your garden koala friendly.

Trees: Contact your local nursery for advice on the correct koala food trees for your area. Plant a variety of native species including koala food trees, wattles, bottle brush as well as shrubs and ground cover to make moving between trees easy for koalas.

Keep old growth trees. It can take 100 years for a tree to become useful to wildlife.

Fencing: fences have become a major problem as they restrict fauna movement. Make your existing fencing koala-friendly by adding a pole for koalas to climb up and over. If building new fencing use timber posts and rails with a plank along the top of the fence to be used as a walkway. Talk to your neighbour about a pole on each side so koalas have easy access from each side of the fence.

Pool: koala-proof pool fencing (eg. glass) or a tethered rope with a float in the water to help koalas climb out.

Dogs: keep them inside, tethered when in the yard, or restricted to a special area.

Watch from a distance and enjoy your special visitors.

Become a voice for the koala