NSW STORIES

Radio-tracking released koalas after fires

Bushfires have been top-of-mind for koala conservationists and concerned public since last summer’s event devastated valuable habitat and destroyed thousands of precious koalas.

In 2017 a precedence was set, showing that by providing shelter, support and ongoing care a bushfire-affected koala can be successfully rescued and rehomed. A good prognosis entirely possible.

Limeburners Creek is known for its healthy population of koalas. The 2017 fires hit 10,000 ha that embraced this coastal heathland near Port Macquarie. With the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital nearby, volunteers searched for fire-affected koalas and found seven that needed care.

The hospital sheltered the animals, supporting them as they healed from trauma and burns. After four months they were released mostly to their point of capture.

An extensive health check was given to each koala prior to release. Radio tracking monitored five of the animals including two females with young. Too small for radio tracking, two others were ear-tagged and released.

We learnt that after meeting the challenge to heal and rehome these koalas, the impact of radio tracking was minimal and eventually all seven did recover and safely readjust to the wild.

Here are some of their stories.

Suzanne

Suzanne was a female who was greater than 10 years of age yet showed signs of recently nursing a joey. She did not fare too well at first and within a few days was returned to hospital. Following re-release she showed no further concerning signs. Another female, Joanne, was released with her and they were regularly seen together.

David

David was a young male who was treated for singed fur. His follow-up showed a fungal growth on his foot but otherwise his condition was good and he stayed within his home range.

Peter

Peter was another victim of singed fur, he also needed treatment for claw loss and burnt hands and feet. When he was released he was in good condition. Tracking showed that he moved away from his release site and settled well into a new home.

Sheila

Sheila was an adult female with unfurred pouch young when she was treated for singed fur and claw loss. She was released in good condition but had to learn to climb again.

Nityama

Nityama was an adult female who also had an unfurred pouch young and needed treatment for singed fur and claw loss. She was released with her fur regrowing and feet in good condition. She moved around a bit and eventually settled near her release site.

Further investigation showed that each joey received its mother’s care and showed no adverse impacts from her trauma.

This project was undertaken in collaboration with the Koala Preservation Society of Australia and the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.