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Breeding season starts early for one juvenile koala

A koala who recovered from a disease transferred from his one-eyed mother has been spotted thriving in the wild – even displaying some rather amorous behaviour.

Carlisle, who is about two years old, contracted chlamydial conjunctivitis from his mum Mimi when he was just a joey. Both were cared for by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-sponsored vets at Friends of the Koala near Lismore in New South Wales.

Mimi’s chlamydial conjunctivitis was so severe, her left eye had to be removed by the specialised vet team. Both Mimi and Carlisle spent months at Friends of the Koala, with Mimi undergoing rehabilitation and Carlisle learning to become a wild koala in Koala Kindy.

After months in care, Carlisle was released in the wild in May 2021. He was one of 14 koalas spotted and assessed during a rescue mission in July which involved tree climber Kailas Wild, USC x IFAW koala detection dog Bear, local koala carers and IFAW-sponsored vet nurse at Friends of the Koala Marley Christian.

Marley and koala rescuer and carer Maria Matthes visually assessed Carlisle and deemed him healthy and thriving in the wild. A few months later, Carlisle was spotted initiating his first mating attempt – at just two years old.

“He had been watching the older boys, to see how it’s done, but the girl he picked was bigger than him. He had no hope and left disappointed. It’s great to see him growing up and becoming a dominant male koala,” Maria said.

IFAW sponsored vet nurse Marley Christian said males usually reach sexual maturity between three and four years old.

“Learning sexual behaviours so early will hopefully result in Carlisle successfully contributing to the wild population,” she said.

IFAW Animal Rescue Program Officer Nicole Rojas-Marin said it’s always heartwarming to see koalas thriving in the wild.

“We know that koalas in New South Wales are facing excessive threats and the risk of extinction by 2050, so it warms our hearts when we see rehabilitated koalas not just surviving but thriving in the wild,” she said.

“Carlisle is definitely growing up into a rather confident and playful male which is so good to see as chlamydial conjunctivitis can severely impact koalas, like we saw with his mum Mimi.”

Carlisle spotted in the wild with his female friend