A retrospective study of admission trends of koalas to a rehabilitation facility over 30 years

04 April 2016

To identify threats to the survival of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) in coastal New South Wales, Australia, we compared 3,781 admission records of koalas, admitted between 1 January 1975 and 31 December 2004 to a koala rehabilitation facility on the midnorthern coast of New South Wales, against local wild population demographics, with the use of multinomial logistic regression and chi-square analyses. Trauma, the most frequent reason for admission, affected young and male animals more frequently than other groups. Seasonal differences in the probability of males presenting as trauma cases suggest behavioral factors as an important risk factor for this group. An increasing probability of koalas presenting as a result of motor vehicle accident since 1985 strongly supports the enhanced action of local authorities to pursue traffic-calming strategies if urban koala populations are to be maintained in this area. Koalas with clinical signs of chlamydiosis made up the second most frequent admission group, and these animals were more likely to be aged. This study highlights the potential usefulness of wildlife rehabilitation centers in detailing threats to local wildlife populations, provided record keeping is efficient and focused, and the role of such studies in providing evidence for focusing threat-mitigation efforts. Continual community engagement by koala researchers is important to ensure that maximum benefit is obtained from activities of special interest groups. Keywords: Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, New South Wales, threats, wildlife rehabilitation