WIRES Central West Branch has had an increase in the number of koalas coming into care as victims of accidents and disease.
Founding member of WIRES Central West Branch Louise O’Brien said distressed koalas have recently been found in the Vittoria and Millthorpe areas, as well as Mullion Creek.
“We’ve had a number of reports of koalas being seen in new locations and in areas where they were previously unknown” said Ms O’Brien.
Ms O’Brien recently became a foster mother for Bill, a koala joey who was found after his mother was hit by a car.
“Bill has been through the ringer,” Mrs O’Brien said.
“Firstly his mother was killed and since then he has been diagnosed with chlamydia, a potentially fatal disease in koalas, which he would have picked up from his mum.”
Ms O’Brien said there are nine types of chlamydia in total and two that affect koalas.
She said chlamydia can live in a koala undetected until the animal is stressed, prompting a range of symptoms including inflammation of the reproductive tract, urinary tract, conjunctivitis and pneumonia, leading to blindness, sterilisation, debilitation and starvation.
“The local population where Bill was found was believed to have been chlamydia-free, so this was a real blow,” Ms O’Brien said.
Ms O’Brien said research is underway to find a vaccine for chlamydia, but one of the main reasons the disease is spreading is the density in which animals live.
“In other words, the higher the population level, and the lower the available habitat, the quicker the disease spreads to the remaining population,” Ms O’Brien said.
Ms O’Brien said the latest figures from the Koala Foundation suggest there are only 80,000 koalas left in the wild, and 80 per cent of wild koalas are infected with chlamydia.
“Planting koala-friendly trees can help, but koalas will only eat leaves from trees that are more than 10 years old,” she said.
“This species is in real trouble, it’s estimated that if we don’t do something to help them soon, by 2050 we won’t have any koalas left in the wild.”
Anyone who finds a koala who has been involved in an accident or is unwell is asked to call WIRES on 1300 094 737.