Rescued koala, 'Half Moon' Harry recovers at koala rehabilitation centre

Greater Sydney's largest purpose-built koala rehabilitation centre has welcomed a new patient, as 'Half Moon' Harry, from Lower Portland, recovers from chlamydia.

RECOVERING: 'Half Moon' Harry is fed by WIRES koala carer Morgan Philpott at the koala rehabilitation centre at Western Sydney University, Richmond. Picture: Finn Coleman.

RECOVERING: 'Half Moon' Harry is fed by WIRES koala carer Morgan Philpott at the koala rehabilitation centre at Western Sydney University, Richmond. Picture: Finn Coleman.

Found by Hawkesbury City Council worker Tahmon Zenzmaier, Harry had obvious swelling around his eyes and was having difficulties, which Mr Zenzmaier noticed immediately.

"I was driving through [Greens Rd], checking the [roadworks] and I saw him on the side of the road. I actually thought he was dead," he said.

"And then as I got closer, I thought that maybe he was having a drink. I stopped and walked closer and he didn't even move he didn't acknowledge me.

"Then I saw that he had chlamydia. He sort of walked away and bumped into a tree, then climbed the next one. So, I thought that I should just call wires and hopefully they can catch him and fix him up."

Wildlife rescue group WIRES sent out its local koala carer, Morgan Philpott, who searched for Harry around bushland that Mr Zenzmaier had identified in Lower Portland, but after over an hour he couldn't find the sick koala.

Mr Philpott said it was difficult to find Harry as it took him well over an hour to get to Lower Portland and by that time the male koala had moved on.

"I spent a good hour traipsing around the bush up there looking for him," he said. "I was on the verge of giving up basically, I figured that he had moved off and I can't find him. He could be anywhere.

"I happened to turn around to walk back to my ute and a little breeze picked up and I could smell him (male koalas have a scent gland on their chests that really activate during mating season to mark a territory).

"So it has a really distinctive smell and anyone who works with koalas will recognise it straight away. I knew that he was really close and It spurred me on to look a little bit further, and fortunately I found him."

SICK: 'Half Moon' Harry in the bushland near Upper Half Moon Rd, Lower Portland, where Hawkesbury City Council worker, Tahmon Zenzmaier, spotted him. Picture: Tahmon Zenzmaier.

SICK: 'Half Moon' Harry in the bushland near Upper Half Moon Rd, Lower Portland, where Hawkesbury City Council worker, Tahmon Zenzmaier, spotted him. Picture: Tahmon Zenzmaier.

Harry was treated at the WIRES koala rehabilitation centre at Western Sydney University, Richmond, for chlamydia, a disease plaguing Australia's koala populations.

His treatment has finished and is now waiting for the antibiotics to clear from his system before he is re-swabbed, with WIRES hopeful that a negative result should be returned.

Similar to another koala that was rescued and underwent treatment for chlamydia at the facility, Monty 'Colo', Harry still has some issues with his eyes due to the infection.

"Often we need to just snip the excessive skin growth that happens in the eye, it doesn't always completely retract," said Mr Philpott.

"His has retracted a lot, but there is still some skin there that we'll probably have to look at doing something with.

"[We'll] probably get the same opthamologist involved in looking at the cornea and make sure everything is ok there."

Most of the animals that come into the care of WIRES, are from rescue notifications from members of the public that come across these animals and see there is something wrong.

WIRES rely on help from the public to assist in protecting wildlife in NSW.

Some tips for how the public can help keep the koalas safe, include:

  • Keep dogs contained overnight, whether that is in a kennel or inside with the family, and to always keep dogs on a leash while walking,
  • Preserving habitat. Destruction of habitat and the fragmentation of existing habitat are the number one reason NSW is at risk of losing koalas as a species.
  • When driving at dusk and dawn to keep an eye out for koalas that are on the move,
  • When coming into contact with a koala, look to see that it has a clean bottom and bright clean eyes. Koalas with chlamydia will have a proliferation of skin growth around their eyes or a wet and really dark rusty looking bottom (wet tail),

If there is animal in distress or that looks in trouble the public are urged to contact WIRES and report a rescue (taking pictures and/or video to pass onto the rescuer is also encouraged).

To contact WIRES call 1300 094 737 or visit www.wires.org.au.