Category Archives: wild koalas

3 generations of koala dynasty: 1 year old male

3 generations of a Koala Dynasty, in one day!

Yesterday (21 February, 2019) was an amazing day. Grandmother koala, her daughter, her granddaughter and grandson were all found on the same day, in the same area of the You Yangs, near Melbourne Australia.

Koala Researcher Bart found Lakorra, the 2 year old daughter of Ngardang, hanging out in an area she had shared with her mother a year ago.  We last saw her in October 2018, four months ago, so we were thrilled and a little relieved.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 2 year old female

Then Koala Researcher Hannah found Ngardang, Lakorra’s mother. She was just 150m away from her independent daughter.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 5 year old female

Wildlife Guide Martin and his group came along, and while looking at Ngardang they found Bunyip in the tree next door. Bunyip is Ngardang’s 1 year old son (with Clancy), and Lakorra’s little brother.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 1 year old male

It’s wonderful to see a little family of koalas – mum and two kids.

But it got even better.

Just down the track, guest Carolyn looked up and saw another koala, high in an Ironbark tree.

Martin quickly confirmed it was Babarrang, the grandmother! 3 koala generations in one day!

3 generations of koala dynasty: 9 year old female

We think Babarrang is about 9 years old. Babarrang gave birth to Ngardang in 2014. Mother and daughter continue to live near each other – their home ranges adjoin each others.

Read about Babarrang’s Dynasty here.
Learning which koalas are related, just by observation, takes many years of research. We watch as koala joeys are born and become independent. We take note of their nose patterns, which remain a reliable indicator throughout life. Most disperse, leaving our research area. But sometimes we get lucky and a joey will stay. Some females set up a home range within, or overlapping their mother’s.

Then, if we are really lucky, a female joey will grow up and have her own babies, as Ngardang has done, still within our research area. And all three generations will be there together.

If Lakorra stays and has a joey this year, we will have four generations! How exciting!

..

All this was seen on a Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD tour, near Melbourne. The wild koala research that provided all this information about Babarrang’s family is funded by tourists who participate in this small group eco-tour.

 

Read more about our non-intrusive wild koala research project here.

Advertisements

How male koalas avoid fighting

If you search male koalas fighting you can find several YouTube videos and some sensational articles declaring that koalas fight often. But over 26 years of wild koala research we have only seen male koalas come to blows twice. So are koalas fighters or not?

We believe that male koalas avoid fighting by using a range of vocalisations, postures and behaviours. This finding is similar to that found in wild koala research at St Bees Island by University of Queensland (Ellis, W 2015) that found low rates of male-male interaction.

One of the ways that male koalas may avoid fights is discussed below.

Resident male koalas may give a range of warnings to trespassers to avoid a fight.  In two groups of observations in the You Yangs, Victoria, two different resident males approached closely to a trespasser male for a day, then left the area. We call this a close vicinity warning.  Then 5 days later and one month later respectively, when the trespasser had not left the area, the resident male moved into the tree with the trespasser.  This is a personal-space invasion warning.

One interaction resulted in some blows, but no full-blown koala fight was ever recorded between these males.

movements of 3 male koalas in the You Yangs

Following is an account of what happened and when.

We first met older male Bindjali in late 2015 in an area north west of resident male Clancy’s home range. He was seen only once that year, and three times in 2016 – once in Clancy’s home range, and twice in dominant male Winberry’s territory. He behaved like an old male who had lost his home range to another, and was living on the fringes.

Early in March 2017 Bindjali appeared and stayed in Clancy and Winberry’s home areas, causing some tension.

Bindjali and Clancy

On 11 and 12 March Bindjali was found in Clancy’s home range.

On 13 March Clancy was found 80 metres from Bindjali’s last location.

male koala movements to avoid fighting

We read this as a close vicinity warning by resident male Clancy. As koalas can smell each other very easily, a close approach like this would have been noticed by Bindjali.

The warning seemed to work, because next time Bindjali was found he was 450m away to the east – in Winberry’s home range. He didn’t stay there long – maybe because Winberry was only 250m away – and by 18 March he was back in Clancy’s home range.

But this time there was no close vicinity warning – it was time to step up the threat level. Clancy was found in the same tree as him, giving Bindjali a personal-space invasion warning.

how koalas avoid fights

male koala confident posture

We watched the two males for some time. Clancy was relaxed, resting stretched out, and looking directly at Bindjali frequently. Bindjali was submissive, keeping his body low to the branch, moving slowly and furtively as if trying to avoid attracting attention.

do male koalas fight often

Watch:

The following day, 19 March, Bindjali had moved just 30m to the north and Clancy was nowhere to be found. That struck us as odd – wouldn’t Bindjali try to get as far away as possible? Obviously we don’t know everything that transpires between male koalas.

Then Bindjali disappeared from the area and was not seen again until 1 April, in Winberry’s home range. Clancy was seen on 26 March, back where Bindjali had been, then stayed around the vicinity, as if he was just checking that the trespasser had finally moved on.

We never saw Bindjali in Clancy’s home range again.

Bindjali and Winberry

Bindjali appeared in Winberry’s home range on 1 April. At this time Winberry was 500m away – at the other end of his home range. But it didn’t take him long to figure out what Bindjali was up to.

On 2 April Winberry had moved directly towards Bindjali and was within 280m of him, and when next found on 14 April Winberry was right in his face – only 60m from Bindjali’s location on 9 April.

This was Winberry’s close vicinity warning.

map of male koala interactions movements

Bindjali stayed around that area. He was seen again on 20 April and 23 April in Winberry’s home range.

On 3 May Bindjali was found dangerously far within Winberry’s home range. By then Winberry must have had enough and had to deliver a personal-space invasion warning. On 13 May Winberry and Bindjali were found in the same tree.

male koalas fighting

This encounter was even more tense than the one with Clancy. Wildlife Guide Brett Howell heard Bindjali vocalising from some distance away. Listen:

Brett and his tour group followed the sound and came across Winberry and Bindjali quite close in the same tree. Winberry was higher, Bindjali was hanging on to a thin branch upside down. As they watched, Winberry struck at Bindjali several times with his right hand. Bindjali stayed where he was, yowling and crying.

Watch Winberry deliver his personal-space invasion warning to Bindjali:

male koala during a fight

After this the two male koalas separated – Bindjali moved down lower, unhindered by Winberry. When the observers left they had settled into a position about 2 metres apart. The koala fight seemed to have ended, for the time being.

koala fight ended

We don’t know if we saw the start, the end or just part of the fight. It is noticeable in the video that Winberry doesn’t seem to be really trying to damage Bindjali. Was he mostly sending a message? If the message was not taken, would it have escalated into a serious male koala fight?

On 15 May Bindjali had moved 80m to the north, still in Winberry’s home range, and was found again near there on 17 May. But he has never been seen again.

CONCLUSION:

Fighting between koala males is relatively rare, and little studied. No doubt koalas have found many complex ways to avoid the dangers and potential injury of physical combat. This is just two observed interactions that we found interesting in their similarity. We doubt that this is the sum total of fight avoidance behaviour and much more needs to be learned.

So what’s with all those YouTube videos of male koalas fighting?  Either there’s so many iPhones and video cameras around that even rare behaviour is getting recorded more often, or koalas in populations that are stressed, overabundant or with a shortage of food trees, fight more.  We don’t know how our modification of their environment is affecting their social behaviour.

Do you have a video or experience of male koalas fighting? We’d love to hear about it.

Note on methods:

This data was all collected by non-intrusive observation in the You Yangs by Koala Researchers and Wildlife Guides of Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours and Koala Clancy Foundation. Koalas are identified from a distance by their nose patterns and never touched. All research is paid for by social enterprise Echidna Walkabout, and is undertaken with permission of Parks Victoria.

The You Yangs koala population is located in dry open woodland dominated by River Red Gum and Yellow Gum (respectively Eucalyptus camaldulensis and E. leucoxylon). Total koala population is estimated to be around 105 individuals, and is declining at rates of around 46% every 10 years. The population does not exhibit chlamydia at high rates (only two suspected cases in 12 years), birth rates are around 10-15% per year (we record 4 to 6 joeys per year in our research population of +/-38 individuals) and death rates about 7%. Home ranges are large, (males: 40 to 110 hectares; females 20 to 30 ha) which is not surprising for a dry woodland environment.

Read more about our Wild Koala Research Project here.

LINKS and REFERENCES:

Ellis W, FitzGibbon S, Pye G, Whipple B, Barth B, Johnston S, et al. (2015) The Role of Bioacoustic Signals in Koala Sexual Selection: Insights from Seasonal Patterns of Associations Revealed with GPS-Proximity Units. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0130657. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130657 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0130657

BBC Earth article: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150711-shouty-koalas-dont-want-to-fight

Koalas do drink - wet koala in the rain

Do Koalas drink?

Koalas don’t drink, says the legend. But they do!

True, koalas drink in a slightly different way to most animals.

Koalas are arboreal – which means they live in trees. They do almost everything high in a tree. They mate, give birth, eat, urinate, defecate …. AND  drink in a tree.

When it rains, koalas do drink by licking the raindrops as they run down the trunks of gum-trees. Watch:

This sort of koala drinking works best on smooth-barked eucalyptus trees, for example River Red Gums, Yellow Gums and Blue Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, E. leucoxylon & E. globulus/pseudoglobulus). It is possible that koalas move to these types of trees to drink when they expect rain.

Koala drinking also works best on vertical large branches and trunks, so that the rain pools and runs down into their mouths.

wild koala drinking by licking rain

We have watched koalas rush to get into a good position for drinking.

They also get more moisture from gum-leaves if they eat while its raining. We have seen that koalas are more likely to start feeding if its raining.

Their method of drinking relies on rain. Rain needs to be fairly consistent. Unfortunately in many parts of Australia rainfall is less consistent – some areas, like the You Yangs where these videos are taken, are experiencing record low rainfall, other regions are having floods.  Reliable rainfall is yet another casualty of climate change in Australia.

koala licking rain off tree

Koalas are thirsty. And not just in summer.

Research conducted by the University of Sydney has found that koalas will drink from water troughs mounted in trees, all year round.

Support Wild Koala Day on May 3. Share a koala post on social media. Tag #wildkoaladay. Call a politician. Show our governments that its time for them to act on climate change.

Koala wet from rain | Koalas do drink

LINKS:

http://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/

https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/03/03/koalas-driven-to-drink-by-climate-change.html

 

Which male will be king koala

Vote for the next King Koala on Wild Koala Day

In the wild, when one door closes, another opens.

In The Bush when an animal dies, it’s not all tragedy. When a dominant male koala dies, a young male gets a chance to be the top koala.

So when my dad Anzac died late in 2017 after a long and successful life, he left an open door.

In fact, he left two open doors: when Anzac first came to power he took over the home ranges of two previous dominant males.

Now three males are bluffing, posturing and even fighting for his title. Here they are, and if you go to my facebook page you can vote for your favourite.

Koala Clancy wild koala day event
Click here to vote

ZACK

wild koala day vote for next king koala

Zack is the perfect age to take over from Anzac. He is about 8 years old – same age as me – and that’s when a male has the perfect blend of strength and experience.

What’s more, Zack has been living beside Anzac since 2013. He knows Anzac’s style. He could take over smoothly, without upsetting the ladies.

Zack is also very wily. For five years he has lived on the edge, close to Anzac, but just out of reach. Anzac could have hurt him badly, but Zack never let him.

Does Zack deserve the title of Koala King the most? Vote for him here.

Watch his video:

LLUVIA

Next king koala You Yangs Lluvia

Lluvia is the young fellow who wants to take over my father’s old home range.

He’s only 3 years old, and most dominant males are much older when they first take the crown. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. My dad Anzac was only 4 when he became the king. Anzac is probably Lluvia’s dad too.

He is relaxed, brave and confident – all good characteristics. He is also persistent, which might prove to be the most important asset of all.

If you think Lluvia can do it, vote for him by liking this video.

CRUIZ

wild koala day king koala

Cruiz is almost as old as Anzac, so this is his last chance at being dominant male of the best territory in the You Yangs.

He wants it, bad. Since 2008 Cruiz has been living on Anzac’s fringe, in a home range quite inferior to Anzac’s. He has watched his women go to Anzac in breeding season, time and time again. It has almost driven him crazy.

Cruiz is big, experienced and the survivor of many fights. He has nothing to lose.

If you think Cruiz should have a taste of success before his retirement, vote for him here.

Watch and like his video:

Wild Koala Day is coming up on May 3. Its important for you humans to protect us in the wild. The wild is where the most interesting koala behaviour happens.

Read more about why Humans need Koalas here. 

WATER FOR KOALAS

Spraying water on koalas

In the summer of 2009-2010, in the 14th year of a terrible drought, one third of our wild koala population died. The cause was heat and dehydration. The location was the You Yangs, just west of Melbourne, but similar stories were heard all around south-eastern Australia.

The predictions of our scientists* were coming true – climate change was here and koalas were dying from it.

Here at Koala Clancy Foundation we looked for a solution. We consulted the research – koalas die in extreme heat, partly from dehydration and partly from heat stroke. After a long drought, our koalas were already dehydrated. We had to cool them down and get them water.

So we started spraying our koalas with water. We tried all sorts of equipment, and nothing worked well – until 2016 when we discovered the Chapin industrial slide sprayer. Watch:

The Chapin sprayer is powerful – it delivers a large volume of water a long distance. We can spray a koala that is 3 or 4metres up a tree. This means that we can get water to more koalas than ever before, and the disturbance we cause to the koala is less.

The Chapin sprayer needs no power, and makes almost no noise. So we can use it again and again, anywhere.

With a Chapin 15 litre (4 gallon) backpack attached, we can walk in to koalas that are a long distance from the nearest road. The backpack is quite comfortable even when full of water.

Koala Clancy after water spraying
Koala Clancy looking refreshed after a spray
How this happened:

On a very hot day in late 2016 we arrived with a volunteer group doing a Koala Conservation Day. A male koala was found, sitting unresponsive very low in a tree. Our Koala Researcher Mel prepared our old hand-held sprayer, arranged the group to wait a distance away, then slowly and quietly approached the koala. She had to get within 2 metres of him before she could start spraying, and to do this she had to be very quiet – most wild koalas object to a close approach, and will climb up the tree out of our reach.

Luckily this day the koala did not move, and she could spray him well. The whole volunteer group watched – and one of our regular Koala Clancy Foundation members took photographs.

The koala was relieved and refreshed by the water. He started moving around, licking the water off his arms and body. It was obvious to all that this water was restorative, and might have even saved his life.

Koala Clancy Foundation Member Jonathan was excited by what he saw. He knew this was a solution, but there had to be a better way. He started researching sprayers, and found the Chapin slide sprayer. He bought the first one and sent it to us to try.

We were stunned by the results. We no longer had to wait until a koala was near death from heat stress to offer them water. We started spraying more regularly, whenever the temperature was over 30 degrees.

Jonathan approached Chapin Manufacturing about buying more sprayers. To our amazement, they donated two full backpack sprayers with slide spray wands.

Since then we have brought water to Koala Clancy, his mother Pat, his father Anzac, and KiKi & KozoBitjarra, Lluvia, Winberry and many others in the You Yangs.

We hope that it will help these koalas live long wild lives.

wet koala
Koala Pat licks her wet fur after a spray. Licking wet fur and wet tree trunks is an important source of water for koalas.
Postscript:

During this process other research has emerged from the University of Sydney showing that koalas will use “drinkers” (small water troughs) placed in trees. We are also exploring this option. It is more difficult to place drinkers on public land due to high risk of vandalism, and it will also be hard to install enough drinkers to benefit all koalas. So in time we may end up with a solution that includes both drinkers and spraying.

REFERENCES:

https://chapinmfg.com/

Industrial slide sprayer wand: https://chapinmfg.com/Product/slug/chapin-6002-industrial-slide-sprayer

15litre Backpack sprayer: https://chapinmfg.com/Product/slug/chapin-60100-4-gallon-home-and-garden-backpack-sprayer

*Davies NA, Gramotnev G, McAlpine C, Seabrook L, Baxter G, Lunney D, et al. (2013) Physiological Stress in Koala Populations near the Arid Edge of Their Distribution. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79136. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079136 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0079136

nine ways to help koalas

Five koala joeys!

The 2017 You Yangs wild koala joey season is here, and our ladies have done well! (The fellas have done well too, but their input was brief – the ladies have done all the work).

The future of wild koalas are right here:

Lakorra – daughter of Ngardang and Winberry

Ngardang moved into Clancy’s home range in January 2017, possibly planning to have a second baby with him. But Winberry, the dominant male, had other ideas. He moved right into Clancy’s home and took advantage of Clancy’s popularity.  Clancy wasn’t ready for a full-on fight, so Winberry stayed and mated with several females.

Gorgeous baby Lakorra was first seen on 23 September 2017. She has been seen regularly since then, and is sweet and calm like her mother.

cute koala joey

Lakorra means Sky in Wathaurong language. She was named by Hannah, our newest Koala Researcher, herself a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Community.

Kozo – son of KiKi and Cruiz

KiKi is the adventurous daughter of YuYu, who left her mother when she was only 9 to 10 months old. Soon after, in January 2017, she was found 1.7km away from her mother trying to escape from male Cruiz. Koala Researcher Mel took some amazing video of KiKi swinging through the treetops. Watch:

KiKi avoided Cruiz that day, but sometime within a month she mated with one of the males. To our great surprise, in early September 2017 we noticed a baby bump! Since then we’ve seen KiKi and Kozo a lot.

koala baby bump

funny koala joey

Kozo is funny, curious and relaxed like his mother. Read more about him here.

Bobo – son of YuYu

Bobo is YuYu’s third baby in three years.

curious koala joey

Bobo is a late baby, but he’s not letting that stop him! At first glimpse outside the pouch on 19th November, he was curious and looking around.

Burun – baby of Babarrang and Clancy

Babarrang may have been talking with her daughter Ngardang about good fathers for joeys. Clancy must have been recommended by Ngardang, because in January 2017 Babarrang moved right up into Clancy’s home and stayed for a month.

wild koala joeys

Baby Burun first appeared in September, and has only been seen a few times.

Burdungul – baby of Wemba and Winberry

Burdungul means Pelican in Wathaurong. Burdungul’s mother Wemba is named to honour the Wemba Wemba People of northern Victoria. Koala Researcher Melinda is from the Wemba Wemba and Melinda’s family totem is the pelican.

baby koala on mothers belly

You can help these wild koala joeys grow up strong and safe. Join one of our 3 day Great Ocean Road or 1 day Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD or Sunset Koalas & Kangaroos tours – all our wild koala research is funded by these tours.

Or if you’re local, join one of our Koala Conservation Days for Locals or get your company to organise a special Corporate Koala Conservation Day.

Koala King of You Yangs

A new King of the You Yangs is coming!

Winberry has been dominant male of Branding Yard, You Yangs for a very long time. He was present in his home area back in 2009. He’s been dominant male there since at least 2010.

I moved into the area as a 2 year old back in 2012, and the first koala I met was Winberry. He told me to ‘bugger off’ in no uncertain terms. I was lucky to get away with my life.

But now the time has come for the old king to retire, and for a new King – myself – to take over the reins.

Check out this map of our latest movements. It shows how I have been making my move into Winberry’s home range.

The red area is my normal home range.  The yellow is Winberry’s normal territory – see how huge it is?  That’s what being a dominant male gets you – lots of property to impress the ladies!

wild-koala-male-movements

It also shows how Winberry has been exploring new territory – he’s scared by me, and he knows he will need a new home soon.  He looks a bit  sad, don’t you think: 

dominant male koala
Wish me luck!

Note from researchers: in the You Yangs sub-dominant males like Clancy do not trespass into the dominant male’s home area. They will trespass on other sub-dominant males, but not on the dominant male – its how we decide who is dominant male. Young males do at times, but that seems to be desperation or a mistake, and they quickly get out.

This move by Clancy looks like a bid for dominant male status. Only time will tell.

female-male-koala-sharing-tree

Koala Breeding Season part 2: The Ladies Take Action.

After hearing male koalas sing female koalas move towards the male of their choice for breeding.

Sometime from November to March, female koalas start to feel the urge to mate. They have heard us male koalas singing since the start of October – read Koala Breeding Season Part 1: Koala Song – and at a time of their choosing they go to the male they want.

Breeding season is the main time my researchers see a female koala move out of her home range. This movement can be substantial (over 1000metres) and is usually brief and not repeated. Female koalas can change their home range from time to time, but these movements are usually slight, repeated often and lead to a long-term boundary shift.

Contrary to popular belief that male koalas dominate mating, some female koalas in the You Yangs appear to instigate mating. They move out of their home range and into a male’s home range.

After that the mating ritual begins. More about that next time.

Here’s one example.

This is Misty, a 6 year old* female living wild in the You Yangs.

female-koala-movements-breeding-season

Misty has had two joeys in the time we’ve known her: male Lluvia in February 2015 and female Cuddles, born February 2016. She didn’t have a joey in 2017.

Misty-female-koala-with-joey

Read about Misty’s dramatic first appearance, subsequent rescue and first joey here.

She has been known to Echidna Walkabout/Koala Clancy Foundation Researchers since January 2014. For that whole time she has been seen within this 27 hectare area.  Read about Misty here. 

female-koala-movements-breeding-season

Then suddenly on 15 October 2017 Misty is found 650m to the east, in the home range of male Bungaleenee.

If mating was her purpose, and she was successful, we will see a joey in Spring 2018.

Science doesn’t yet know what triggers a female to seek a mate. Koalas are induced ovulators, which means the egg is released after the female mates. So how does she know when its the right time?

We’ll just have to ask her!

Stay tuned with all the latest educational wild koala info by following me on Facebook or Instagram!

* Misty’s age is estimated.

All the information above is based on long-term, non-intrusive wild koala monitoring in the You Yangs Regional Park, Victoria by Koala Researchers employed by Echidna Walkabout & the Koala Clancy Foundation.  Read more here: https://koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/research/koala-research

https://koalaclancy.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/koala-breeding-season-part-1-koala-song/

https://www.instagram.com/koalaclancy/

https://www.facebook.com/koalaClancy/

https://koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/

Koala interacting with Cockatoos

This amazing footage shows rare interaction between a wild koala and a group of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. The video was filmed in the You Yangs, near Melbourne Australia. The koala is a known individual, Pat, part of a long-running Wild Koala Research Project run by Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours and the Koala Clancy Foundation.

What’s happening here? Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are gregarious, vocal and territorial. They will defend their habitat using vocalisations and swooping against invaders, including humans – so its not surprising that they occasionally target large arboreal mammals like koalas.

What’s odd about this is that Koala Pat was in a living tree in her home range at the time of this interaction. If these cockatoos are resident, they would encounter her often. But we know this doesn’t happen often, as we have researchers in this location 300 days a year and it is very rare to see anything like this.

So what caused this interaction? It was filmed at the very end of summer, so not peak breeding season for the cockatoos, and this tree is quite young and probably would not have formed the hollows that cockatoos require for nesting.

We don’t know what Pat did before this interaction – she may have climbed into the tree that the cockatoos were feeding in. She may have moved around in an unusual way. Or the cockatoos may have been teaching their chicks how to deal with intruders, and Pat was the unfortunate target.  We do wonder – are there some trees in a koala’s home range that they don’t use because they are ‘owned’ by another species?

Koalas would learn how to deal with interactions with other species. You can see she stays quite still, doesn’t make eye contact, and waves her hand at them when they get too close.

A wild koala’s life is full of decisions – which tree to eat, where to sit on a hot/cold/windy/rainy day, how to get from place to place, how to socialise or avoid contact with other koalas, possibly how to avoid interactions like these. While this interaction may have been stressful for Koala Pat, it is part of the richness of her wild life. Learn more about Koala Pat and her life here: 

 

Watch another amazing video of Koala Pat walking through a group of tourists.

When does a hot koala need help?

We all see a lot of pictures of koalas suffering from heat on the internet. Its awful. I know you want to help. But do wild koalas need help?

Based on observations of wild koalas over 21 years, my Koala Clancy Foundation research team propose this 6 point Koala Heat Stress Scale. Read on for recommendations of what to do. 

KOALA HEAT STRESS CHART:

1. koala high in tree = NORMAL

2. koala mid in tree = NORMAL

3. koala low in tree in shade = FEELING STRESS

4. koala on ground hugging tree = FEELING STRESS

5. koala leaving home range, heading to water = IN DISTRESS

6. koala approaching humans for water = IN EXTREME DISTRESS

koalaheatstressscalewmlowres

Stage 1: Scenario: its a hot day. You see a wild koala high up in a tree. An hour later you return and they are still high in the tree. Should you try to help them?

Answer: No. Based on our Koala Heat Stress Scale, any koala who is regularly high in their tree is behaving normally. They will not appreciate any interference, or contact from a human.

In fact, getting too close to any wild koala is wildlife harassment, and is illegal in most states of Australia.

Stage 2: its a hot day. You see a wild koala in the middle of a big gum tree, hugging the trunk. You go back after lunch and the koala is still there. Should you intervene?

Answer: No. Again, based on our Koala Heat Stress Scale, this koala is at Stage 2 and exhibiting normal behaviour. Don’t interfere, they are fine.

Stage 3: its 33C. You are walking through the bush and see a wild koala low in a gum tree, or in a Cherry Ballart, wattle or hakea, hugging the trunk. The koala is still there later. Should you intervene?

Answer: No. Based on our Koala Heat Stress Scale, this koala is at Stage 3 and though they are feeling the heat, they are coping. If you go close to them you will cause them distress, and probably make them climb up which will just make them hotter. Stay away, and keep dogs and kids away.

Stage 4: its very hot. You see a wild koala on the ground, hugging the base of a tree. An hour later they are still there. Should you help?

Answer: maybe. If you have a local Koala Research group (like the Koala Clancy Foundation or Queensland Koala Crusaders) call them. They will monitor the koala and spray them with water from a distance if it is deemed necessary.  Read how we spray koalas here.  But this is not yet an emergency, and this koala does not necessarily need to go into care. If there is a cool change coming, they will probably be fine. However, if the next four days are going to be as hot, call your local wildlife care group, give them an exact location, and maybe tie a bit of ribbon on a nearby tree to show them where to find the koala.

ARISdonna150114mktextlowres
A licensed Wildlife Carer monitoring a koala from recommended 10metres away

Stage 5: its over 36 degrees and you see a wild koala sitting in a dam. The dam is on your property and you’ve never seen a koala near here before. An hour later they are still there. Should you help?

Answer: yes. This koala has probably left their normal home range to seek water because they are in distress. There is a good chance that this koala is healthy and simply needs some respite. If you can, call a licensed Wildlife Carer or Koala Research group, give them exact location and situation. Do not approach the koala yourself.

Read about Misty, a survivor of Stage 5: A Miracle Koala Baby

Stage 6: its over 36 degrees and a koala stumbles across your path, or into your yard and goes for any water they can smell. It might be the dog’s bowl, the pool, your water bottle or the sprinkler. Should you help?

Answer: Yes definitely. This koala is in extreme distress. Their natural fear of humans has been eclipsed by their desperate need for water. Its not cute, its very very sad. Give the koala access to a bowl of water and step away – 5 metres is a minimum. If you have access to a hose, set it on fine mist and spray the koala.  Then call a licensed Wildlife Carer. Keep the koala safe from dogs and other people until the carer gets there.

This Koala Heat Stress Scale has been formulated by the Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours and Koala Clancy Foundation Research Team over 21 years of watching wild koalas closely with a minimum of interference.