A koala partially blinded by disease and rescued by a passerby has been given a new lease on life.
The koala from Josephville, 11 kilometres west of Beaudesert, in Queensland's Scenic Rim Region, has been nicknamed Sweetheart, and has been returned to the wild with clear eyes after being treated for conjunctivitis by the RSPCA and the Environment Department.
Eye disease is a common symptom of chlamydia, which can be triggered by stress and may be related to habitat clearing, a possible consequence south-east Queensland's heavy population growth and housing developments.
RSPCA veterinarian Tim Portas said the koala was seen in a tree on The Hollow Road at Josephville in October.
"Thankfully the member of the public knew the koala was virtually blind through illness and wrapped him up and contacted the RSPCA," he said.
"The koala was taken to the RSPCA Queensland Wildlife Hospital at Wacol (Brisbane) where he was diagnosed with severe conjunctivitis in both eyes."
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"He was in danger of being hit by a car, getting attacked by a dog or starving to death.
"Sweetheart also had superficial lesions on his body, a wound to his muzzle and he'd lost hair in patches on his right forearm.
"He was treated by the RSPCA for five days and when he was eating and had settled down, we transferred him to ... Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre for further treatment."
Department vet Stephanie Shaw said when the koala arrived at Moggill his conjunctivitis had improved.
"He still had obvious keratitis, or inflammation of both corneas, and needed further treatment," Dr Shaw said.
"The chlamydia treatment included injections of chloramphenicol antibiotics, eye medications for severe conjunctivitis and minor surgery on both eyes to reduce the proliferative conjunctiva.
"We had to wait several days to determine the degree of corneal scarring and vision impairment he may have suffered.
"But after recovering from the minor surgery, we found he had little corneal scarring and no vision impairment, so we monitored him to make sure he was eating and gaining weight.
"He's about eight years old, and weighed in at 9.6kg, which is about as big as they get in Queensland."
Sweetheart ended up in the koala hospital for three weeks and was released near where he was found.
To report sick, injured or orphaned koalas call the RSPCA on 1300 264 625.
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