Koala conservation

Koalas are one of Australia's most iconic animals, recognisable around the world. However, koala populations are under increasing pressure. Koala conservation programs are being undertaken on a national, state and local level.

Koala conservation programs, policies and legislation

Developing a NSW Koala Strategy

The NSW Government is developing a whole-of-government NSW koala strategy to stabilise and then start to increase koala numbers.

Learn more about developing the NSW Koala Strategy.

Saving our Species koala conservation

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) at MumbullaSaving our Species is a conservation program that aims to maximise the number of threatened species that can be secured in the wild in NSW for 100 years.

The koala has been allocated to the iconic management stream of Saving our Species because of its significant social, cultural and economic importance, and to meet community expectation that koalas are effectively managed and protected.

A conservation project is being developed for the koala in NSW under Saving our Species. The conservation project aims to secure koala populations in the wild, engage local communities in its conservation, and encourage the NSW community to identify with koalas as a flagship for threatened species conservation.

On 15 August 2017, the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage approved the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project action toolbox as an amendment to the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Program. Find out about the iconic koala species project.

More than $1.8 million has been invested in koala conservation across NSW through the Saving our Species program since 2012-13.

This has involved funding for koala surveys and habitat mapping, developing comprehensive koala plans of management to protect koala habitat and manage threats, and tracking koalas to record their movements.

An additional $800,000 has been committed to koala conservation under Saving our Species for 2017-18.

The Restoration and Rehabilitation, Environmental Research and Protecting our Places Grants under the NSW Environmental Trust have supported many successful projects conserving koala habitat.

The Environmental Trust has awarded more than $7.6 million of funding from 1 July 2017 through to 30 June 2020 for koala conservation projects and habitat acquisition.

State Environmental Planning Policy No. 44 – Koala Habitat Protection (SEPP 44) aims to ‘encourage the proper conservation and management of areas of natural vegetation that provide habitat for koalas to ensure a permanent free-living population over their present range and reverse the current trend of koala population decline.’ The SEPP requires a plan of management for areas of more than one hectare that contain koala habitat and for which a development application has been lodged. The plans should:

  • identify areas of core koala habitat where development is restricted
  • identify threats and include measures to reduce these threats.

Five plans have been adopted and approved by the Department of Planning and Environment:

A number of other councils have undertaken koala habitat studies and/or commenced work or have draft plans of management:

  • Bellingen
  • Byron
  • Campbelltown
  • Cooma-Monaro
  • Clarence Valley
  • Nambucca
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings
  • Richmond Valley
  • Tweed.

The koala is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 because of declining numbers and the ongoing pressure of threats. Such listing gives the species more protection and attention, and means proposals for development that will affect koala habitat are rigorously assessed.

NSW koala recovery plan

The 2008 recovery plan for the koala outlined conservation actions to support the koala in NSW. These actions included:

  • habitat management
  • community education
  • monitoring, research and mapping.

The Biodiversity Conservation Program and associated Saving our Species conservation projects have replaced individual species recovery plans. Recovery of threatened species is now being coordinated through the Saving our Species program with funding of $100 million provided by the NSW government between 2016 and 2021.

Saving our Species has developed a 5-year project for the conservation of koalas in NSW. Find out about the iconic species project.

In April 2012, koala populations in Queensland, NSW and ACT were listed as vulnerable to extinction under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). For more information on the national conservation status of the koala, see:

OEH is undertaking koala monitoring and research to:

  • identify population trends
  • understand threats and develop actions to reduce these threats
  • prioritise conservation activities
  • support local government in the preparation and implementation of koala management plans.

Recent research activities include:

  • coordinating koala surveys in south-eastern NSW to determine the status of the various populations and identify priority areas for management – this research will establish baselines for future koala monitoring, assist with predator control programs and help with fire planning
  • undertaking a study with The University of Sydney to determine the genetic status of the southern tablelands population
  • evaluating the success of tree planting by farmers and the NSW Government in the last 20 years to provide habitat for the local koala populations on the Liverpool Plains around Gunnedah, and in Eden
  • collating existing research to form a picture of koala populations across the state and examining the changes in the distribution of koalas over the last 25 years to guide koala conservation.

OEH is also undertaking research funded by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment to examine the effectiveness of past koala conservation efforts.

Koala rehabilitation

OEH has developed the rehabilitation of protected fauna policy and a fauna rehabilitation code to guide volunteer groups that rescue injured, sick or orphaned native animals, care for them and release them back into the wild.

Protection of native animals

All native birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, but not including dingoes, are protected in NSW by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.