Do Livestock Injure and Kill Koalas? Insights from Wildlife Hospital and Rescue Group Admissions and an Online Survey of Livestock-Koala Conflicts

Animals (Basel). 2021 Sep 13;11(9):2684. doi: 10.3390/ani11092684.


Koala populations in Australia are declining due to threats such as chlamydiosis, wild dog predation and vehicle collision. In the last decade, grazing livestock emerged anecdotally as a threat to koala survival in areas where koala habitat and livestock grazing land overlap. This is the first study investigating the significance of livestock-inflicted injuries and deaths in koala populations over a large spatial and temporal scale. We investigated the outcome, scale, and frequency of livestock-koala incidents via an online survey and analysed koala admission records in Queensland wildlife hospitals and a wildlife rescue group (Wildlife Victoria) in Victoria. The results provide evidence of both livestock-inflicted injuries and deaths to koalas, especially as these have been confirmed by witness statements. The outcomes for the koala victims of the incidents were severe with a 75% mortality rate. The reported frequency of livestock-koala incidents was low but increasing, with 72 cases (0.14% out of 50,873 admissions) in Queensland wildlife hospitals during 1997-2019, and 59 cases (0.8% of 7017 rescue records) in Wildlife Victoria during 2007-2019. These incidents were likely to be under-reported due to the remoteness of the incident location, possible mis-diagnoses by veterinarians and the possible reluctance of farmers to report them. Future research is encouraged to explore the mechanics and causes of livestock-koala incidents and to develop management strategies to minimise the livestock threat to koalas.

Keywords: Phascolarctos cinereus; attack; cattle; cows; domestic; injury; koala; livestock; trample; trauma; wildlife conservation.