Recently, our team at Sunshine Coast Council had a tour of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. The hospital opened in 2004 and is managed by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, a not for profit organisation. The facility has been purpose built for caring for wildlife and has the philosophy that by saving one animal, you help save the species.

While they treat all native animals, during the tour it became obvious that the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital specialises in Koalas, with almost 8000 being treated at the hospital over the years. During the tour we got to see Koala rehabilitation in action. We saw triage areas where Koalas were being treated under general anaesthetic. Outside were numerous large enclosures, a ‘Koala Kindy’ for young Koalas and a soft release area full of gumtrees to make sure they are capable of surviving in the wild again once released. The hospital is fully equipped to conduct X-rays and MRIs if required.

Staff at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital taking blood from a Koala.

We met a very small orphaned Koala joey who had been found alone in suburbia. Her mother was probably hit by a car or chased by dogs, resulting in the baby becoming separated from her.

Koalas are now listed as Vulnerable across Queensland, and some populations, especially in Southeast Queensland, are under more pressure than others. It is thought that Koala populations never recovered from when millions of Koalas in Australia were hunted for their skins in the early part of the 20th century. One hundred years on, it is estimated that Koalas are worth $1 billion annually to Australia’s economy through tourism.

The ‘Koala Kindy’ is a set of enclosures where young Koalas get used to climbing trees before graduating to the larger soft-release enclosure.

Obvious threats to Koalas are habitat loss, disease, animal attacks (including domestic dogs and cats) and being hit by cars. A less obvious threat is climate change, which is increasing the amount and intensity of droughts and heatwaves and stressing Koala populations further.

Sunshine Coast Council in partnership with researchers from the University of Queensland are studying three Koala populations, including some on Land for Wildlife properties. The Koalas are radio-collared to track their movements. Before radio-collaring, they are first given a thorough medical examination, and if something is picked up they can be treated at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.

Since going on the tour I have a much better understanding of how some of the issues affecting Koalas are treated, and it’s good to know that Koalas needing medical attention are in very capable hands at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.

What you can do?

  • Protect existing Koala habitat.
  • Keep domestic dogs locked up at night.
  • Keep domestic dogs on a leash when walking.
  • Drive safely especially during the spring Koala breeding season.
  • Donate to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors.
  • See Land for Wildlife Note A4 on Koalas for more information about this iconic animal.

 

Article & photos by
Stephanie Reif
Land for Wildlife Officer
Sunshine Coast Council

 

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