"DON'T just think that they are okay, because they're not."
This is the most important message Koalas in Care founder Christeen McLeod wants people to hear.
Christeen says that 95 per cent of times that koalas are hit by a car, the person drives on and leaves them on the road. In this huge majority of cases, it will be somebody else that comes along later and finds the koalas dead or injured on the road, who contacts Koalas in Care.
However, even if the koala runs off after being hit it may still be seriously injured.
"There seems to be a mentality out there that 'I hit that animal with a car, but it's alright because it ran up a tree', and they drive on and forget about it," says Christeen.
"But that koala hurts, just like us. If we got hit by a car we wouldn't be alright. And you're talking about a little animal that lines up with the bumper of your car that's going to get whacked in the head, or you run over it with your tyres.
"Sure, sometimes it's going to run up a tree because it's running on adrenaline. But tomorrow it's going to be feeling sore. It's probably got something broken, it's probably had a whack to the head.
"If it was us, we'd probably be laid up in hospital for weeks, and it's no different for them."
It is a timely message as weather dictates activity. With the days starting to warm up, breeding season is beginning and koalas are more actively on the move.
Sadly, more and more koalas are coming into care each year, and it's not just because of car accidents.
"If you're hammering away at the habitat so you're displacing animals, you're taking away their food, their shelter, their protection," explains Christeen.
"Then you're going to put koalas into conflict with other koalas because they have home ranges. Taking away habitat causes stress.
"Months down the track, there will be sick koalas in the area. It's been proven time and time again. It might take six to 12 months, you'll find a hot spot where there are several animals with wet bottom or conjunctivitis.
"Then you look back and sure enough, some incident has occurred to trigger it. It could be environmental stress, like a drought.
"If we get them early enough we can treat them, but if we don't get them early enough they're just going to keep passing it on to others because it's sexually transmitted and highly contagious between koalas."
As koalas that have been hit by a car might appear to be uninjured, so it is with a koala that may look healthy to the untrained eye.
"A dirty bottom is not always wet bottom. It might be that they've sat in a mud puddle. But the point is that if they phone us, we've got enough experience to decide whether that koala needs to come into care. What might look healthy to the public might not be.
While koalas are not nearing extinction in the Manning Valley, we do not have such great numbers we can afford to be cavalier about running over koalas and leaving them to fend for themselves.
Do not be part of the 95 per cent. Koalas in Care is a 24 hour service and Christeen pleads that people call no matter what the time is.
"It doesn't matter if it's the middle of the night, if the koala needs to come in, it comes in. It's as simple as that," she says.
The Koalas in Care 24 hours rescue service can be reached on 6552 2183. If there is no answer, call 0439 406770.
View an online gallery of photos our photographer took at Koalas in Care at www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/2969321/how-to-help-local-koalas-story-and-gallery/?cs=1215
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