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.
DANGER or DISTRESS
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
and NOOSA KOALA SIGHTINGS
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.
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