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How to spot a sick or injured koala

Recognise a Sick, injured or orphaned koala

It's not easy to spot a koala in the wild, it is even harder to tell if they need our help.

We can all play an important part in getting koalas the best care should they need it by learning how to identify a sick, injured or orphaned koala in the wild.

Sick or injured koala rescue

If you have seen a sick, injured or orphaned koala, or you are unsure whether or not the koala is unwell, please contact our hotline immediately. It is  available 24/7. If possible, take a photo so we can check if the koala looks healthy and well or gives the impression of being unwell.

How to identify a koala in need of help

A sick or injured 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 may also 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. 

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

Call our 24/7 Koala Rescue Hotline 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 or check the IFAW Wildlife App which connects you with the closest licensed wildlife rescue group at the touch of a button. 

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Koala dog bit injury

Dog bites

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.

Orphaned Joeys

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.

Orphaned joey

A healthy koala

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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.

Koala Health Hub
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This campaign has been created by the Northern Rivers Regional Koala Partnership, a collaboration between all Northern Rivers councils, the NSW Government and Friends of the Koala.