Southern Highlands koala conservation project

Environment Minister Mark Speakman has announced the second round of installing GPS tracking collars on koalas in the first-ever study of the mammals in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) wearing radio collar

Mr Speakman said he anticipated the final 10 of 20 koalas would be fitted with collars over the next month. “The study aims to provide a clear direction for the long-term conservation of one of Australia’s most iconic species,” Mr Speakman said. “It’s timely to be finishing fitting the collars today because September is Save the Koala Month.

Mr Speakman said the $155,000 Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project was a partnership between the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Wingecarribee Shire Council, the University of Sydney and the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.

“OEH’s $85,000 contribution comes from a four year $1.48 million program to protect the long-term future of five iconic species including the koala.

Other projects to protect the koala include supporting local government to survey koalas, map their habitat and develop comprehensive plans of management.

OEH also has undertaken research using long-term data sets to monitor change and evaluate the degree of success of earlier koala conservation efforts.

“The government also has allocated $100 million over five years starting from 2016 for the Saving our Species program to protect our threatened flora and fauna,” Mr Speakman said.

As an iconic species, the koala will be a priority for investment of the $100 million, however the distribution of funding for the SoS program is still being developed.

Since the launch of the SoS program in 2012, $717,000 has been spent on Koala conservation projects and a further $120,000 is committed for this financial year.

“Twenty koalas in the region will be fitted with GPS satellite tracking collars that will provide valuable data to assist in the conservation of the local population. Ten koalas have already been fitted with collars and are being monitored.

“The information will give Council and other land managers the knowledge they need to make informed land use decisions. This will ensure there is sufficient habitat for koalas to live, to breed and to move about.”

Member for Wollondilly Jai Rowell said that this was a great project, which would have a meaningful outcome for our koala population and the environment.

Wingecarribee Shire Mayor Councillor Duncan Gair said the project was established after a major fire in the Yerrinbool-Balmoral area in 2013 wiped out some of the koala population and forced many other koalas to move.

“The fire caused chaos for the local koala population and scattered them out of their familiar habitat on to the Hume Highway and in backyards,” Mr Gair said.

“It became apparent that an action plan was needed to ensure the local population would survive and that’s why the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project was created.”

The project will help us to understand:

  • how many koalas there are and where they live;
  • how they move about and the routes they take;
  • the main risks to these koalas, such as being hit by cars or disease;
  • what gum trees they like to eat, so these can be used for replanting projects in the area.
  • An important aspect of the project will be to make sure everyone in the Southern Highlands knows about their koala colonies and what they can do to help their long term survival.

Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project