Rescuing and Rehabilitating Koalas

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How to identify a koala in need of help

A healthy koala

how to identify healthy koalas

Healthy koalas have a thick, grey coat with white markings, bright eyes and a rounded full belly. They respond when startled, spend most of their time high in trees (not necessarily a koala food tree), move and climb well and have no discharge from their eyes, nose, mouth, ears or cloaca. Healthy koalas have a pleasant koala smell and being wild animals, will bite and scratch if handled by humans. If they’re on their own and larger than a soccer ball, they’re adults. Koalas smaller than this on their own may be orphans and need to be looked at by an experienced koala rehabilitator.

A sick, injured or orphan koala

how to identify unhealthy koalas

Sick koalas can have red, swollen, pussy or crusty eyes, fur loss anywhere on their body, brown, stained rumps, an unpleasant smell, and their fur is often dry brown or matted. They often have discharges from their mouths, ears, eyes or cloacas.

If sick or injured, their overall body condition is poor. They’re often slow to respond, if at all, to humans and can be touched without responding. They are generally found low to the ground or on the ground except when moving between trees, and can stay in the same tree without moving for more than a few days. Their gait is abnormal or uneven, and they can be disorientated, walking in circles. Some injuries, such as bleeding from any part of their body or broken bones are obvious. However, some injuries, such as dog bites, are often not visible, but if there are dogs in the vicinity there’s always a chance that the dog (no matter how small) has bitten a koala. In these cases you should call our Rescue Hotline on 6622 1233 immediately as unless even a small puncture is treated within twelve hours the animal will probably die.

Koalas smaller than a soccer ball when curled up may be orphans, and need to be assessed by an experienced koala rehabilitator. Pouch or back young koala orphans, where the mother has been killed by a dog or car, need to be placed with an experienced koala rehabilitator immediately.

A koala sitting on the ground, unresponsive to what is around it, is a very sick koala and needs attention IMMEDIATELY.

Call our Rescue hotline (6622 1233) if you live in the Northern Rivers of NSW or your local wildlife organisation if outside this area – search online for your local wildlife organisation.


Celebrating Triumph’s progress!

Triumph’s story wasn’t a happy one to start with, but with a bit of luck, a whole lot of love and good caring, his story just might end up perfectly.  Triumph’s mum had died from disease and when we rescued him in March last year, we realised he was missing a foot on his right leg. At first we thought it might have been due to an injury but he was born without it and had a little stump where his ankle should be with  a small foot pad on the end. His work-up told us he was about 10 months old but was otherwise uneventful so he was sent to his home carer.

After a month or so, Triumph was treated for Chlamydial Pneumonia which can be quite stubborn to cure. As with all things Triumph, he took his time but made a complete recovery, and once recovered he was moved into our koala kindy at the Care Centre with 5 other joeys. He was very brave, being the smallest boy in the group, but was soon snuggling and fighting with the best of them. Even though his weight, personality and maturity was similar to his kindy friends, his dexterity was well below par. Triumph often slipped and was found hanging upside down after losing his balance quite regularly. It was frustrating to watch – he was doing everything else perfectly but he just couldn’t get his head around his foot not being there.

Months passed by with his roommates being released and new roommates moving in. He adjusted to change well but was really taking his time developmentally. Nearly 2 months ago now, he started demonstrating that he was now a big boy with his first attempt at a bellow. It is like listening to a teenage boy’s voice cracking – an amusing yodelling kind of sound, with appropriate head movements of course. This was followed by his scent gland becoming active soon after and some inappropriate humping (mostly of his carer as she was the only one handling him). We needed to
make a plan for him.

We had considered the possibility that Triumph might not be released into the wild as, while it’s what we always work toward for every koala we have come into care, we have to consider all options to ensure the best outcome is achieved for each animal. So it was time to push Triumph and see if he would push back. We moved him to a larger enclosure by himself for a few weeks then transferred him with one of his kindy pals to our plantation kindy where he has the chance to climb smaller trees and completely feed himself.

Proving his name, Triumph has risen to the challenge in a big way, moving up and down the 59 trees in the kindy with ease. This week he’ll be trapped and weighed, and provided everything is fine will be put into a soft-release with a mature Forest Redgum to see if he can handle the mature trees as well. If he continues to thrive, he’ll then be released within the next few weeks. A brilliant result which has come about after countless hours of work and worry from many wonderful people.

A favourite Triumph position in the Koala kindy

Report a Koala Sighting

Even if a koala is healthy, we would really like to have that information as it helps build our data base of koalas in the Region.

We have a handy online form to Report a Koala Sighting built right into our website.


FOK’s Licensed Coverage Area

Friends of the Koala Inc. is licensed to carry out rescue and rehabilitation of diseased and injured koalas across five of the local government areas in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW.
fok licensed coverage area for koala rescue and rehabilitation