Do koalas survive and thrive after care?

When koalas come into care, a great amount of resources, cost and time is required to rehabilitate them to the point of safe release back into the wild. Reasons for their admission are generally related to disease, dog attacks and car incidents, although fire events and subsequent translocations are increasingly impacting koala wellbeing. Unfortunately, a significant knowledge gap remains between koala rehabilitation and the resulting success or failure of koalas re-establishing in the wild. While many koalas have been rehabilitated and released, there are still very few post-release koala monitoring studies that have assessed whether or not the koalas do well.

In an effort to fill this knowledge gap, a new study is being undertaken with the National Parks and Wildlife Service by research partner Science for Wildlife, looking at whether koalas survive in the wild once they have been through treatment and care. The project will monitor koalas, post-rehabilitation, in the Greater Western Sydney region with the aim of improving our understanding of survival and of the factors contributing to successful re-establishment in the wild. This area of research is important as it will support and inform wildlife rehabilitators, and other wildlife health professionals on the effectiveness of current treatment and release protocols in NSW. This post monitoring study is the first of its kind for the Greater Western Sydney region.

On the importance of this project, Executive Director of Science for Wildlife Dr Kellie Leigh stated:

“Unlike humans, koalas don’t understand why they’re being taken away from home into a completely foreign environment for medical treatment and that causes stress. Then even if they bounce back from the impacts of treatment and care they can’t always be put back in the same place they were found, for example if it was near a busy road where they got hit by a car, a backyard where a dog attacked them, or if their habitat was burned by bushfires. So they might have additional stresses to deal with back in the wild like trying to establish a new home range, finding good quality trees to eat and maybe having to move around to avoid other koalas, and in turn that can take them into higher risk areas.”

 

 

 

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Featured above: S4W Field Ecologist Brie Sloggett releasing a rehabilitated koala back into Campbelltown.

Where will the study take place?

This study will monitor rehabilitated koalas that have been admitted to the University of Sydney Avian Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital (AREPH) and cared for by WIRES and Sydney Wildlife in Greater Western Sydney region, NSW. Currently, AREPH receives approximately 30-40 injured, sick or orphaned koalas per year, many of which are successfully rehabilitated by WIRES and Sydney Wildlife careers and released back into the wild

How many koalas will be tracked?

The study is opportunistic and dependent on how many koalas go through care during the course of the project, but will include up to 20 rehabilitated koalas plus 20 control animals (animals that have not received any medical treatment). These koalas will be monitored weekly for up to 12 months after release. Our Science for Wildlife field ecologist Brie Sloggett is coordinating the project, with research oversight by Dr Kellie Leigh and scientists from National Parks and Wildlife.

Make a donation to Science for Wildlife

To make a donation and support our koala projects, head to our donate page and follow the links to our secure payment systems. All donations over $2 are tax deductible for Australian Residents. It’s going to be a long haul to find and conserve what is left of our koalas after the fires, the work has just begun, so please consider signing up to give a monthly donation if you are able.

For other projects updates and to learn more about Science for Wildlife community, visit our website here.