27 Apr 2022

HOW HAVE THE FLOODS AFFECTED KOALAS IN THE NORTHERN RIVERS?

Please give today to help regenerate nature and protect wildlife.

The effects of the devastating floods on Southeast Qld and Northern NSW are still being felt and will continue to be for months to come, both for the people living there and the animals that call the regions home. WWF-Australia’s vet and Wildlife Recovery Project Coordinator Dr Prishani Vengetas met with Jodie Wakeman, one of the vets at Friends of the Koala, to help with the rescue and rehabilitation of impacted koalas.

What was it like being right in the epicentre of the floods?

Dr Jodie Wakeman: Friends of the Koala is located right in Lismore, NSW, and unfortunately, this area was really badly impacted by flooding. For me, the floods were a very difficult time because I was completely cut off. I couldn’t get here to the clinic, and initially, none of the other staff could either. It was really hard not being able to help right away, and it was just devastating knowing so many koalas were displaced from their homes and needing help. 

The whole of March is a bit of a blur for me. It was a very bizarre and surreal situation - we were just recovering from the first floods, and then a few weeks later, the second round came right after. I think everybody's still in a bit of shock about that. 

How badly did the floods affect the local koala population?

Dr Jodie Wakeman: We started to see an increase in koalas coming into care in the weeks following the floods, and it’s becoming increasingly clear just how affected they’ve been. If they were lucky, koalas might have been able to climb to the top of trees to avoid floodwater, but then they get tired, wet and cold, and their immune system takes a hit. Koalas can swim for short periods of time, but with the strong floodwaters, they deal with issues like ingesting contaminated floodwater and becoming displaced from where they normally live. We're seeing more disease-related koala deaths in this region as a result and a rise in infections such as Chlamydia, pneumonia, breathing difficulty and other health issues.

Flood-impacted koala in branch at Friends of the Koala
© WWF-Australia / Free Vreman

What will the long-term effects be for both koalas and their habitat in the area?

Dr Prishani Vengetas: The floods devastated not only houses and urban areas and landscapes but also tree plantings and natural habitat for koalas. The loss of so much habitat will seriously impact their nutrition and shelter in the future, so we need to do all we can to regenerate the lost habitat in this region. With koalas recently being listed as Endangered under our national environment law, the life of every individual koala matters. To see them here in care at Friends of the Koala, happy and healthy, really does give me hope for a better future for them.  

Tell us about Gulliver, the koala joey.

Dr Jodie Wakeman: Gulliver is a koala joey that came into care after being rescued in Tregeagle, NSW during the floods. He was found walking around a property alone, drenched and calling out for his mum. He was only about 12 months old and definitely wasn’t old enough to be out on his own. 

Gulliver is a 14-month-old koala joey. Friends of the Koala (FOTK) rescuers found him on the ground cold and alone in Tregeagle, NSW amid the Northern Rivers flood crisis. His mother sadly couldn't be found, so Gulliver was  assessed and then put into home care with a koala carer.
© Friends of the Koala
Gulliver is a 14-month-old koala joey. Friends of the Koala (FOTK) rescuers found him on the ground cold and alone in Tregeagle, NSW amid the Northern Rivers flood crisis. His mother sadly couldn't be found, so Gulliver was  assessed and then put into home care with a koala carer
© Friends of the Koala

We gave him a full check-up at the clinic and, luckily, found him to be in good health, other than being very wet and moderately dehydrated. He has since been in care, living in our Koala Kindy with a few other orphaned joeys. He’s been eating well and putting on weight every week, which is a great sign that we may be able to release him in a few months. When that time comes, we’ll microchip him, give him an ear tag, and run some tests to make sure he’s healthy for release. 

Seeing him do so well is such a rewarding feeling. It’s amazing to know we've made such a difference in helping him recover and grow to maturity.

What can people do to help?

Dr Prishani Vengetas: Flood-affected wildlife need someone to take care of them and advocate for them. With the help of WWF-Australia’s donors to the emergency flood appeal, organisations like Friends of the Koala can set up little guys like Gulliver for success by rescuing and rehabilitating them for release back into the wild.

Dr Prishani with some koala joeys in the Friends of the Koala koala kindy
Dr Prishani with some koala joeys in the Friends of the Koala koala kindy © WWF-Australia / Free Vreman

There are three things you can do to help koalas recover from the floods:

  • Report any injured or sick-looking wildlife that you see to rescue organisations like Friends of the Koala
  • Use your voice and actions to let our leaders know that wildlife care is important and sign petitions; they do make a huge difference. 
  • And the third is to donate to WWF-Australia. Your donation could go towards wildlife hospitals and caregivers providing native species with the best possible care to help them get back to the wild where they belong.

Dr Jodie Wakeman: Thanks to the funding from WWF's flood appeal, we've been able to rehabilitate and care for koalas during a really hard time. If you can support WWF to continue this care, then we've got a chance to save koalas in the future. 

By donating today, you’ll help give life-saving support to wildlife affected by these devastating floods. 

Thank you.

When a disaster at the scale of these latest floods happens, one thing is clear - no one organisation can meet the needs of all wildlife across the country. That’s why WWF-Australia has partnered with incredible groups in all states and territories to ensure help is received quickly and wherever it’s needed most.

Emergency funds have already been deployed for immediate wildlife rescue, care and recovery through our partners:

  • Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, NSW
  • Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, Qld
  • Friends of the Koala, NSW
  • Sydney Wildlife, NSW
  • Ipswich Koala Protection Society, Qld

Funds are also supporting emergency landscape project recovery with partners:

  • Bangalow Koalas
  • Border Ranges Richmond Valley Landcare Network

This is just the beginning and we will continue to direct emergency funds as the situation unfolds.

Read more about how we're helping flood impacted wildlife.

Please give today to help wildlife survive these devastating floods. 

Your generosity will be life-saving.