Wild koalas are found from west of Cairns in Far North Queensland right down into South Australia, with the vast majority of the populations on the coastal side of the mountain ranges right down into Victoria. There are more scattered populations in the mountain ranges themselves and out onto the western plains of Queensland, NSW and Victoria. There are no wild koalas in Western Australia, the Northern Territory or Tasmania. As koalas rely almost totally on the moisture they obtain from the eucalypt leaf they eat, most populations are thus found occupying better quality eucalypt forests close to water courses and more fertile soils.
As koalas prefer to live in better quality habitat- this is where the conflict with humans is at its greatest as human housing/agricultural development is also often located in similar environments. Both koalas and humans are attracted to the best real estate.
Where koalas are able to live in undisturbed forests free of human interference, the colonies tend to be much healthier and do not suffer the diseases and problems that koalas face who live at the human/bush interface such as urban and rural areas.
The problem that human progress causes is the reason why the Koala Hospital and other wildlife rehabilitation facilities exist across Australia. The pressure on our precious native fauna is enormous and it is because of the dedication of wildlife carers throughout this country that these sick, injured and orphaned native animals are taken into care, treated and hopefully released.
Reasons for Admission to the Koala Hospital
The number one reason that koalas come into care is because of a bacterial disease called Chlamydiosis. This bacterium can affect the eyes of the koala and/or the urogenital tract. The eye form of the disease can cause blindness if the animal is not treated early enough. More often than not the hospital has good success in treating eye disease and most koalas are rehabilitated and released. The urogenital form (which affects the bladder, reproductive tract and the kidneys) is more difficult to treat, as often the koala does not come into care until the disease is well advanced. The hospital has a number of diagnostic tools (ultrasound, blood tests, swabs, clinical signs etc) to ascertain the level of damage to the koala’s internal organs and usually makes decisions on the koalas treatment options based on this.
Alternatively wildlife carers, veterinarians and researchers may find the Koala Hospital Rehabilitation Manual helpful in working with the myriad of problems that affect both wild and captive koalas. See the product section to purchase a copy of the manual.
Since the late 1970’s, the hospital has been working alongside the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney researching Chlamydia and other diseases in koalas. During this time a number of PhD students have undertaken their project work at the Koala Hospital and as a result a large bank of koala pathology information is held for researchers worldwide at the University.
Koalas also suffer from various cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, also skin conditions and other undescribed diseases are being seen when koalas are admitted to the hospital.
MVA – Motor Vehicle Accidents
The second biggest reason for admission to the hospital is koalas being hit by motor vehicles. Depending on the level of trauma to the animals we have a reasonably good success rate with treating this problem. Most of the koalas who get hit are usually the young, sexually active, fit healthy males and females as these are the koalas who are moving around within their home ranges seeking to mate. It is very distressing to admit a healthy, fit young animal who has his/her whole future in front of them but whose injuries are so bad they die before we can treat them or shortly after arrival.
Other koalas respond well to treatment and many undergo surgery to repair fractures and dislocations. Head traumas are more difficult to treat but many are successfully pulled through.
As motor vehicle injures are usually quite traumatic to the koala, it can often be a long rehabilitative process but every koala is given the best possible chance to recover.
Sadly this is a major problem for not only koalas but all wildlife. Domestic and feral cats also kill wildlife and are quite capable of taking a joey or young koala too. As the majority of dog attacks occur in urban areas (some occur in agricultural and forested areas too), it can be a difficult thing to control. The majority of dog owners are responsible and endeavour to lock their dogs up at night, or home owners erect timber runners from trees to fences in their backyards to prevent koalas having to come to ground and be at risk of attack. Many dog owners also keep their dogs on leads when out walking in bushland but some do not. Unfortunately the koala sees all trees in his/her home range as part of their territory and if that means going into a backyard to have a feed then that is what the koala will do. The dog also sees the backyard as their territory and here is where conflict arises. Koalas have not evolved mechanisms to defend themselves enough and most koalas die as a result of their injuries. Often the injuries are not all that visible externally but the koala has usually suffered horrific internal injuries that are beyond treatment.
The Koala Hospital keeps a record of the breeds of dog that commonly attack koalas with the Staffordshire bull terrier as the number one culprit, followed by the Blue Heeler and then the Alsatian. We try to encourage potential dog owners to purchase dogs who are less likely to attack koalas such as Labradors and Cocker Spaniels.
Wildlife carers, veterinarians and researchers may find the ‘Koala Hospital Rehabilitation Manual’ helpful in working with the myriad of problems that affect both wild and captive koalas. See the product section to purchase a copy of the manual.
For further enquiries or help with any of the above or any other koala related issue, please contact the Koala Hospital by phone or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feeling warm and fuzzy
- Tuesday, 12 March 2013
An article in the Sun Herald March 10, 2013Nina Karnikowski Travel Writer
Nina Karnikowski decides it's high time to get cuddly with an Aussie favourite.I’ve never touched a koala. As an Australian, I’m almost ashamed to admit it. It seems on par with never having eaten a Vegemite sandwich, never...
New York City premiere of the Documentary 'Koala Hospital'
- Tuesday, 29 January 2013
According to Susan Kelly, koalas have become "urban refugees," under siege by expanding cities that bring with them deforestation, dogs, traffic, and other ills for native wildlife. Director of Global Briefing, and writer, producer and director of the new documentary Koala Hospital, Susan Kelly...
Sydney University Research
- Sunday, 18 November 2012
The work that the Koala Hospital has hosted has been fantastic and the effort and assistance provided by the whole organization but particularly by Cheyne and all the volunteers over the years with Jo and also our other PhD students, has been truly magnificent. I know how disruptive and...