Picture: Bob Etchells macarthuradvertiser.com.au / mac-koala-skin-disease-can-devastate LAST week a sick koala (pictured) from Min...
|Picture: Bob Etchells|
LAST week a sick koala (pictured) from Minto Heights died overnight and we took the body to the Wildlife Health and Conservation Centre at Cobbitty for a post-mortem examination.
The koala had some kind of skin condition that affected its eyes and caused lesions on its face and arms.
The centre determined the condition was mange, a skin disease caused by a tiny mite that burrows into the skin to lay its eggs.
This causes a strong immune response which is intensely itchy.
Layers of dandruff build up and the skin thickens and cracks.
Our koala had reached that stage with lesions on the face and hands. His eyes were particularly affected.
Mange is occasionally seen in wild koalas but is more common in wildlife parks where it's transmitted from wombats.
The disease is seriously affecting wild wombats because the mite can survive for some weeks in their burrows.
How our koala became infected is a mystery because we have not seen infected koalas at Campbelltown before.
However, we have seen a healthy wombat in Ruse and one with mange at Wedderburn, so our koala may have entered a burrow or cave where a wombat had left some mites.
Previously we had found one of our radio-collared koalas in a small cave on a hot day so we know that method is possible.
As the koala population increases, the incidence of mange is also likely to increase.
This expansion is evident from the following spread of reports received by the pager this week.
There was a koala beside the community hall at Sandy Point, and a roadkill on the Princes Highway at Heathcote.
Then a policeman nudged a koala on Picton Road at Wilton and returned during daylight to ensure it had survived.
Closer to home at Wedderburn there were two sightings at the Gorge, and another at the corner of Kenwood and Minerva roads while at Ruse a koala was seen beside Old Kent Road.
Please report koala sightings on the UWS pager 9962 9996.