President of the Friends of the Koala, Lorraine Vass with Brendan the koala, 6.
President of the Friends of the Koala, Lorraine Vass with Brendan the koala, 6. The Northern Star

Save the koala month

SPICE and Zoe are two orphaned koalas, hand-reared by Friends of the Koala, that have recently been seen in the wild with babies of their own.

It's the kind of story that makes it all worth while for the 120 volunteers at the koala care and research centre.

But sadly, it is not a common story.

“We lose a lot of koalas. By the time they get reported to us they are usually in a pretty bad way,” said Friends of the Koala President Lorraine Vass.

“The main problem is Chlamydia,
where we can at least see the external signs. But quite often when we bring koalas in for a check-up and an ultrasound at the local vet, it is very common to find they have ovarian cysts.”

September is 'Save the koala' month and Ms Vass is taking the opportunity to remind North Coast residents of their responsibilities in living with a significant urban koala population.

“The Northern Rivers' koala populations are amongst the State's most significant. Many are highly visible, surviving in urban and closely settled rural areas,” she said.

Ms Vass said the decline in the koala population was closely tied to the loss of habitat.

“If their habitat is fragmented or marginal they will move quite long distances, sometimes several kilometres in a night if they have to.”

The koala care centre is now admitting an average of 5.5 koalas every week, more than anywhere else in NSW.

During spring and summer there are regularly more than 20 koalas in care at any time.

While disease is by far the most common reason for admittance, vehicle impact is also high on the list.

Over the past two months seven dog attacks have been reported, which is more than was reported in the whole of the 2007/8 year.

Barb Dobner is the Care Co-ordinator for Friends of the Koala and said people with dogs had to take responsibility for their pets.

“Dogs need to be kept contained, especially in the evening and at dusk. If there is a koala in the yard, keep the dog inside the house and the koala will move on.”

Ms Dobner said many people bought small breeds of dogs believing they were less of a threat to wildlife, but Jack Russells were one of the worst culprits for attacking wildlife.



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