HOT weather and a drier than usual January are taking their toll on the Northern Rivers koala population, with many suffering heat stress and dehydration.
When temperatures hit 37 degrees on Saturday, January 4, Friends of the Koala received a phone call from a Ruthven resident who noticed two koalas, Desley and her young Dixie, clinging to a patio post.
Suffering heat stress, Desley and Dixie were taken to Lismore’s Friends of the Koala Care Centre to be nursed back to health.
On top of the heat stress they were suffering, a veterinary examination of the pair confirmed Desley had borderline anemia.
After initially rejecting Dixie, Desley has now recovered, and after a fortnight in care, both mother and baby are doing well.
Koala carer Susannah Keogh said the lack of rain and drying winds had thinned eucalypt canopies, meaning more koalas were on the hunt for water.
“Normally most of a koala’s water intake comes from the leaves it eats,” Ms Keogh said.
Because a lot of leaf is very dry, leaving a dish of water at the base of trees koalas were known to inhabit could save a koala’s life.
“With high temperatures forecast for the rest of the week, it is distressing to think how many more koalas are suffering.
“They get quickly dehydrated, which can lead to illness and even death. Leaving out containers of water for your local koalas and other wildlife can literally save their lives.”
To combat the dehydrated foliage, leaves for the koalas at the care centre are being sprayed with water twice a day.
“The leaf is so dry on these hot days that the koalas in care have been drinking around 50ml to 100ml water daily,” Ms Keogh said.
“Even healthy koalas can become rapidly dehydrated if they are not able to find the fluids they need.”
To report a koala in trouble or a sighting, phone Friends of the Koala’s 24/7 rescue hotline on 6622 1233.
Story By Rodney Stevens
Photo: SAVED BY RESIDENTS: Rescued koala mum and bub Desley and Dixie are being cared for after suffering from heat stress during the recent hot weather. Patrick Gorbunovs.