Injury and Attack
Apart from disease, koalas being hit by motor vehicles are one of the main reasons for admission into care.
Adult Koalas occupy a large home range in which they stay for their entire lives. The loss of parts of their habitat due to construction of roads, highways, shopping centres, housing estates and other human infrastructure have major implications for wild koala populations. Roads built within the koalas home range become obstacles over which Koalas must cross for the koala to find food, shelter and mates. This creates a great risk for the Koala to be hit be a moving vehicle as often they are hard to spot for the majority of motorists.
Depending on the speed of travel and which part of the vehicle actually impacts the koala can make a great deal of difference to the level of trauma the koala suffers.
Koala patients that arrive at a care facility alive can exhibit everything from fractured jaws, skulls, brain injury, fractured limbs, fractured spines, internal bleeding to degloving of the skin from being dragged along the road.
Koalas suffering serious traumatic injuries usually require surgery to repair fractures and they require long term intensive care. Even with the best of care, many of them still die.
Some injuries are so severe that keeping koalas alive with the goal “to give them a life, becomes an animal welfare issue and these koalas require immediate euthanasia.
Koalas are a wild animal and we must respect their wildness. Not all is lost though as we do have successful treatments of some motor vehicle impact injuries followed by the release of the koala.
Dog attacks are also a major problem for koalas and native wildlife, as koalas can often find themselves going into backyards with dogs that see the backyard as their territory. This area of wildlife work is arguably one of the most frustrating, emotional and preventable reasons for admission into care facilities. Education in regards to responsible pet ownership is important as is keeping good communication open with dog owners. Therefore education, a cool head and keeping the lines of communication open are the best defence wildlife personnel have until legislation changes to protect all wildlife on both private and public land from domestic dog attacks. It is not unusual for a wildlife carer and or vet to be presented with a koala patient, who outwardly shows minimal to no visible injuries. Subtle signs such as matted saliva on the fur and/or one or two puncture wounds may hide what the Koala Hospital calls “the iceberg effect”.
What is the Iceberg Effect?
This is where a koala looks to have suffered only minor injuries, such as one or two small puncture wounds. The casual observer often states “oh he/she looks fine, there was only one tiny wound”. The reality is that internally the koala may for example have crushing pressure injuries from the dog’s canines which cause massive trauma/haemorrhage to internal organs, tissues and muscle as described previously. So the tip of the Iceberg is the tiny external wound and the bulk of the iceberg is the massive trauma internally. This scenario is exactly the same with domestic cats who catch birds, small mammals and reptiles – minimal evidence of trauma on the outside of the body but internally it’s a mess and the majority die.
Post mortem work is critical to both allay the fears of those who feel they have failed in treating the injured koala and to learn what truly goes on internally. It is a very important education tool for those who work with wild koalas.
Nonetheless, all is not lost as most koalas with true minor injuries do indeed respond and are successfully released.
How to prevent dog attacks
- Choose a breed that is less likely to attack wildlife
Plant trees in the front of a yard (not near powerlines) in preference to backyards.
- If koala trees are in a backyard – try to fence off where the tree or trees are to keep dogs away. Erect timber runners from the tree to the fence to allow the koala to not have to go down to the ground.
- Koalas often walk along the tops of fences to get from A to B. It is not unusual for a bigger dog to pull the koala off the fence and attack it. Try to house your dog in a fenced area that koalas will not visit.
- If possible lock dogs up at night.
- Always have your dog on lead when out on public land.
- Keep the Koala Hospital or other wildlife agency’s 24 hour emergency number handy and call immediately if your dog attacks a koala no matter what the time.
- Where possible wrap the koala up in a big blanket to keep warm while waiting for responders.
- Do not be fearful you will get “into trouble” – wildlife personnel simply wish to take the koala in for treatment.
- Choose a breed that is less likely to attack wildlife
Here's how you can help!
Here are three of the biggest, most significant ways you can help us today!
Choose one of our koalas to adopt and receive a specialised adoption package. Adoption is a meaningful and symbolic way to connect with your contribution as you learn about your adopted koala and the species as a whole. Learn about the koalas available for adoption to find who you connect with here!
Make a donation contribution to directly help fund the conservation efforts of wild koalas and their habitats, provide care to sick and ill koalas and support research and education efforts. Every donation amount makes an impact, no matter the size, and you can pick among our different donation funds.
Come see us in action to find out what we’re all about! Drop into the Koala Hospital during our opening hours to get a first-hand look at our facility, including our Koalaseum, care clinic, and shop. You can learn about our rescue and rehabilitation efforts and check out our facility.