Saving 'Mac' The Koala From Starvation & Skin Disease

The population of koalas has been declining in NSW for years due to urban expansion, habitat loss, disease, vehicle strike and predation by dogs. It’s no wonder the Australian Federal Government listed these sleepy, native marsupials as ‘vulnerable species’.

A young male koala was nearly dead when he was discovered at the bottom of a tree at Minto last weekend. He was transported to Sydney’s Animal Referral Hospital where he is currently being treated and recovering slowly.

 ARH’s exotics veterinarian Dr Jayne Weller says the koala, who the hospital staff named ‘Mac’, arrived suffering from multiple problems.

“Mac was very cold, dehydrated and unresponsive,” she explains. “We provided the medical attention he needed to stabilise him and ran some tests which showed low blood sugar and Sarcoptic Mange, a painful and highly contagious skin condition (caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite) transmitted by dogs and foxes. With bushland areas backing up against suburban areas, it’s clear our rapid sprawl of city life is having an impact on the animals’ environment.”

Mac had mange on his feet, hands, face and arms. This would have made it painful to climb and hang on to branches and consequently affected his ability to eat a specific diet of eucalyptus leaves, causing him to become weaker and weaker from starvation, explains Dr Weller.

Mac’s size are around 13kgs – Mac weighed only 9kgs, she adds. After a couple of days of fluids and treatment at the ARH, Mac is finally able to lift up his head and show a bit of activity. He woke up briefly on Wednesday to find his arms wrapped around a large bouquet of eucalyptus leaves from his very own neighbourhood – hand-picked by Dr Weller on the way to work that morning.

“Caring for a koala is labour intensive. They need a variety of eucalyptus leaves. We’re confident Mac will continue to improve with the Animal Referral Hospital’s 24-hour care and soon be picking his own leaves! It takes me too long!” she laughs.

Dr Weller says koalas move around a lot at this time of year so it’s important to look out for them. She advises anyone who finds an injured koala to contact WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education) on 1300 094 737.

WIRES now has a free Rescue APP to get instant mobile access to wildlife advice and rescue assistance from WIRES Rescue Team 7 days a week. Visit for more information.

For more information about the federal government listing of koalas in NSW - click here.


Thanks to VETtalk TV for this video interview with Dr Jayne Weller.



Media interviews:

Troy James, General Manager

Animal Referral Hospital


M 0410 647 974/ W 02 9199 8983


Dr Jayne Weller, Exotics Veterinarian

Animal Referral Hospital

M 0404 273 013


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