Koalas hit by local fires: Fears held for their future

LUCKY for this koala, some Mount Forest Road residents saw it near their house, on the ground, probably trying to escape the heat and looking for something to eat or drink last Wednesday after fires roared through the area.

Seventeen-year-old Tony Corey spotted the koala on a vehicle track when he and his family were out looking for burnt stock on their property, which they had been putting down.

Tony took off his shirt to catch it, helped by his sister Kara, and his father Greg who grabbed a towel to wrap it in. Then the family headed back to their house to put it in a cage before calling LAOKO (the local wildlife group).

Marietta Hynes said they wanted to save the koala because they had to put down some of their burnt sheep after the fire went through.

"I thought we should try to save it," Mrs Hynes said.

"Tony held onto the koala in the back of the ute until we got home. He was a bit vicious. He tried to scratch Greg (her partner) to get away.

"We've seen koalas around here before on our property, about 12 months ago, and we hope this koala will be released back here."

LAOKO volunteer Carola Vamvakaris collected the koala at about 11pm on Wednesday.

Ms Vamvakaris contacted a specialist wildlife vet Dr Howard Ralph, who was involved in the Victorian bushfires and is experienced with native animals affected by fire.

"He helped me with the assessment of the koala," Ms Vamvakaris said.

"We had received initial reports that the koala had burns to his back and backside, however there was only some scorching to the fur on his back.

"He was dehydrated but otherwise in good condition. He was still fairly feisty to catch though.

"No sedation was required, just feed and water, which he accepted readily."

The male koala is now with an experienced LAOKO koala carer who has another koala in care to keep him company before being released.

Office of Environment and Heritage, Regional Coordinator, Mike Saxon said a dead koala was found in about the same area on the Mount Forest Road.

"I have no doubt that other koalas were lost," Mr Saxon said.

"The positive is that the local population is robust enough to get through this event.

"The Kybeyan Valley and Numeralla area of eastern Cooma-Monaro Shire supports a large proportion of the Southern Tablelands population of koalas, which is genetically unique, differing significantly from all other populations including those nearby in the Bega area and the Southern Highlands," Mr Saxon said.

Mr Saxon said the Yarrabin fire posed a great threat for individual koalas particularly given the relatively low height of many of their feed trees.

"To date the fire has not impacted upon the main population areas in the Numeralla area," he said.

"It appears likely that the known core areas will remain fire free."

Mr Saxon went on to say it is likely that the fire has impacted on koalas in what is probably a more sparsely populated habitat in the Kybeyan area.

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