Extending The Impact Of Our Koala Post-Rehabilitation Project

We are pleased to announce the extension of our Post-Rehabilitation Project, which is providing important information on the success of koalas after rehabilitation and release from care.

The monitoring Project began in late 2019 in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), after NPWS identified a critical knowledge gap around koala rehabilitation and the subsequent success or failure of koalas re-establishing in the wild. The project has been supported by the NSW Government under the NSW Koala Strategy.

Wildlife rehabilitators from WIRES have also been critical to the project, working with us to provide data and opportunities to tag and track the koalas they release from care. Despite the massive workload involved in caring for koalas, including daily browse collection for these fussy eaters, some wildlife rehabilitators have even pitched in to volunteer with us and help radio-track the koalas as well.

Using Data To Improve Survival Rates of Koalas

The data we collected to date have provided some important insights that will help to improve protocols for the care and release of koalas. However, one limitation of the study is that it is opportunistic and getting enough data is dependent on how many koalas are released from care over the project timeframe.

We hoped to extend the study to gain more insights on how more koalas fare over a longer period, and we’re delighted that the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) came to the party to fund an immediate extension of 3 months and some much needed equipment, and the NSW government (Department of Planning, Industry and Environment) have recently provided support for an extra 6 months to take the Project to the end of 2021.

The main objectives of this Project are to:

  1. Evaluate the mortality rates of koalas after release from care;
  2. Look at their home range movements and any factors that influenced them, for example if they had to be released a long way from where they were originally found it might mean they didn’t settle back in as well.
  3. To see if their diets in care matched with their diet preferences back in the wild

You can read more about the first stage of Project on our website here.

Featured: A Koala named Gladys being tracked using a S4W ear tag.

Improving Koala Survival

From the results so far, our S4W team calculated that the critical threshold for mortality occurred within two weeks of a release, and in many cases there are actions that can be implemented during care and prior to release to prevent that.

We also found that koalas that were released further away from their original capture site moved more, which potentially puts them more at risk in developed areas. Across our two main study sites in South West Sydney and the Hawkesbury LGA, koalas predominately utilised three habitats across both sites, suggesting some strong preferences behind their habitat use. This might change as we add more koalas to the study in different areas. We know from our other work up in the National Park in Wollemi that koalas can use a much higher number of habitats, so this could be due to having fewer habitats available to them in the developed areas.

We would like to extend our thanks to our Project partners at the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and IFAW for their support.

To learn more about the other projects being led by our S4W team, head over to our projects page here.