Abstracts: An analysis of demographic and triage assessment findings in bushfire-affected koalas on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, 2019–2020


In the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, experienced catastrophic bushfires that burnt approximately half the island, with an estimated 80 per cent of the koala population lost.

During and after the event, rescued koalas were triaged at a designated facility and a range of initial data were recorded including rescue location and date, sex, estimation of age, body condition and hydration, and assessment of burn severity (n = 304 records available).

Koalas were presented to the triage facility over a span of 10 weeks, with 50.2 per cent during the first 14 days of the bushfire response, the majority of which were rescued from regions of lower fire severity.

Burns were observed in 67.4 per cent of koalas, with the majority (60.9 per cent) classified as superficial burns, primarily affecting the limbs and face. Poor body condition was recorded in 74.6 per cent of burnt koalas and dehydration in 77.1 per cent.

Negative final outcomes (death or euthanasia, at triage or at a later date) occurred in 45.6 per cent of koalas and were significantly associated with higher mean burn score, maximum burn severity, number of body regions burnt, poor body condition score, and dehydration severity.

The findings of this retrospective study may assist clinicians in the field with decision making when triaging koalas in future fire rescue efforts.

Evie Dunstan 1Oliver Funnell 2Jenny McLelland 1 2Felicity Stoeckeler 3Elisa Nishimoto 3Dana Mitchell 4Sam Mitchell 4David J McLelland 1 2Jerome Kalvas 1 2Lynley Johnson2Claire Moore 5Lauren J M Eyre 6Amanda McLune 7Ian Hough 8Ludovica Valenza9Wayne S J Boardman 1Ian Smith 1 2Natasha Speight 1

Animals (Basel). 2021 Nov 12;11(11):3237.doi: 10.3390/ani11113237. Open access https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/11/3237

  • 1School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, Roseworthy Campus, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5371, Australia.
  • 2Zoos South Australia, Frome Rd, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.
  • 3Kangaroo Island Veterinary Clinic, Kingscote, SA 5223, Australia.
  • 4Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, Parndana, SA 5220, Australia.
  • 5South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management, Bridgewater, SA 5155, Australia.
  • 6Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, South Australia (RSPCA SA), Lonsdale, SA 5160, Australia.
  • 7Australian Defence Force, Army Headquarters, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia.
  • 8Cleland Wildlife Park, National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia, Department for Environment and Water, South Australian Government, Crafers, SA 5152, Australia.
  • 9Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Beerwah, QLD 4519, Australia.

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