Koala Post-Rehabilitation Study
Do koalas survive and thrive after care?
A significant knowledge gap exists between koala rehabilitation and the resulting success or failure of koalas re-establishing in the wild. While wildlife carers and veterinarians invest significant resources into rehabilitating and releasing koalas, there is very little information on whether koalas survive back in the wild after care and medical treatment. In an effort to fill this knowledge gap, an extended study is being undertaken by Science for Wildlife, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and with funding provided under the NSW Koala Strategy. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) also provided critical support for the project in 2021.
This project is monitoring koalas, after care and medical treatment (or post-rehabilitation), by radio-tracking them 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 care and release protocols in NSW. This post-rehabilitation monitoring study is the first of its kind for the Greater Western Sydney region.
Where will the study take place?
This study is monitoring 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, which are then rehabilitated by WIRES and Sydney Wildlife careers and released back into the wild. An immense amount of resources, cost, human time and effort is required by WIRES and Sydney Wildlife carers and AREPH wildlife professionals to rehabilitate koalas to the point of release into the wild.
Who will be involved?
The project will be lead by Science for Wildlife ecologists, but with volunteers and wildlife carers helping to radio-track koalas in their local area. Wildlife care organisations, WIRES and Sydney Wildlife, are important partners and are providing background information for the koalas while they were in care, including where they were found and what medical treatments they had, as well as notifying our research team when a koala is ready for release.
We look forward to sharing the project results.
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 if it would put them at risk, 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 get used to a new area, find good quality trees to eat and they may have to move around to avoid other koalas, which in turn that might take them into higher risk areas.”