Rescuing and Rehabilitating Koalas

Each year Friends of the Koala rescues more than 350 sick, injured and orphaned koalas rescued in NSW. Our 24/7 Rescue Hotline receives calls from members of the public who either need advice or encounter a sick, injured, or orphaned koala within the Northern Rivers region. Trained rescue volunteers attend the location and after a thorough assessment of the situation undertake the rescue. Once carefully contained, koalas are transported to our Koala Hospital for treatment.

On admittance at our Koala Hospital, koalas are assessed and treated by vet staff. If prognosis is poor, koalas are euthanased to prevent further suffering.

Koalas can be in rehabilitation anywhere from a couple of hours to several months, depending on the case. While in care, koalas are monitored daily and receive specialised veterinary treatment.

Upon release, koalas undergo a final vet check. Depending on the length of their rehabilitation, koalas may need to be transferred to a soft release enclosure where they can learn to climb and regain muscle strength before their eventual return to the wild.

In most cases, koalas are released back to their home range. If we are unable to return them to the exact tree from which they were rescued, we release them as close to that tree as possible.

How to identify a koala in need of help

A healthy koala

Healthy koalas have a thick, grey coat with white markings, bright eyes and a rounded full belly. They respond when startled, spend most of their time high in trees (not necessarily a koala food tree), move and climb well and have no discharge from their eyes, nose, mouth, ears or cloaca. Healthy koalas have a pleasant koala smell and being wild animals, will bite and scratch if handled by humans. If they’re on their own and larger than a soccer ball, they’re adults. Koalas smaller than this on their own may be orphans and need to be looked at by an experienced koala rehabilitator.

Report a Koala Sighting

Even if a koala is healthy, we would really like to have that information as it helps build our database of koalas in the Region.

We have a handy online form to Report a Koala Sighting built right into our website.

A sick, injured or orphan koala

Sick koalas can have red, swollen, pussy or crusty eyes, fur loss anywhere on their body, brown, stained rumps, an unpleasant smell, and their fur is often dry brown or matted. They often have discharges from their mouths, ears, eyes or cloacas.

Sick koalas are often slow to respond, if at all, to humans and can be touched without responding. They are generally found low to the ground or on the ground except when moving between trees, and can stay in the same tree without moving for more than a few days. Their gait is abnormal or uneven, and they can be disorientated, walking in circles. Some injuries, such as bleeding from any part of their body or broken bones are obvious. However, some injuries, such as dog bites, are often not visible, but if there are dogs in the vicinity there’s always a chance that the dog (no matter how small) has bitten a koala. In these cases, contact you local koala rescue group immediately.  

Koalas smaller than a soccer ball when curled up may be orphans, and need to be assessed by an experienced koala rehabilitator. Similarly, pouch or back young koala orphans, where the mother has been killed by a dog or car, need to be placed with an experienced koala rehabilitator immediately.

A koala sitting on the ground, unresponsive to what is around it, is a very sick koala and needs attention IMMEDIATELY.

Call our Rescue Hotline (6622 1233) if you live in the Northern Rivers of NSW or your local wildlife organisation if outside this area – search online for your local wildlife organisation.