Managing threats to koalas

The Chief Scientist & Engineer's report recommends the NSW Government develop a whole-of-government NSW koala strategy with the objective of stabilising and then starting to increase koala numbers.

This will require a range of actions to manage and reduce threats to koalas. Some threats will require state-wide action and other threats need to be addressed on a local level.

What are the threats to koalas?

Many of the threats to koalas are well known:

  • habitat loss and fragmentation
  • vehicle strike
  • disease (chlamydia and koala retrovirus)
  • dog attack (wild and domestic)
  • bushfire
  • drought
  • heatwave
  • drowning in swimming pools

Threats impact koalas differently across NSW. There is still more to learn about threats to koalas and the most effective actions to avoid or reduce them.

There are actions we can take, individually and as a community to reduce some of the major threats to koalas and keep them safe.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) wearing radio collarHow are threats currently being managed?

Government and the community have a range of options available for managing threats. These include:

  • legislation and regulatory controls
  • rules set out in the planning system
  • incentives for private conservation
  • management of the national parks and reserves as well as other public land
  • managing threats and habitat as part of the Saving our Species Program
  • community effort through koala rehabilitation and on-ground action.

The community's efforts to protect koalas is greatly appreciated. Many koala rehabilitation groups and individuals play a critical front-line role, giving their time to care for injured koalas.

What needs to happen in the future?

Maintaining key koala populations will depend on identifying the risks associated with each threat to that population and, based on tolerance for those risks, developing appropriate management actions.

The whole-of-government NSW Koala Strategy can address threats by:

  • identifying priority threats to key koala populations at the population scale
  • defining actions to manage and reduce priority threats to key koala populations
  • prioritising management actions, investment priorities and assigning accountabilities and timeframes
  • reviewing and aligning legislative and regulatory arrangements to improve outcomes for koalas across different land tenures
  • establishing a framework for on-going coordination and cooperation of land managers, policy makers, researchers and the community to deliver defined actions.

What you can do to help koalas

There are actions we can take, individually and as a community to reduce some of the major threats to koalas and keep them safe.

Dogs can seriously harm koalas.

  • Keep dogs on leads in areas where there are koalas. Be aware that koalas spend more time moving between trees on the ground during mating season (generally September-February).
  • You can work with local interest groups to investigate fencing recreation areas for dogs or consider establishing dog-free properties in koala population areas.
  • Report stray or roaming dogs to Council Rangers.

If you see a sick or injured koala, you should contact a licensed rehabilitation group or call OEH on 131 555. Have these numbers ready in your car, wallet or saved in your mobile phone contacts.

The NSW National Wildlife Council can help you locate a licensed wildlife carer. You can also call the WIRES Rescue Line on 1300 094 737 or download the Wildlife Rescue App on your device to have WIRES contact details on hand.

Signs of a sick koala can include infected or inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis), a wet and dirty bottom (cystitis) and sitting at the base of a tree for an extended period of time.

When a koala is on the ground injured or sitting at the base of a tree for an extended period of time:

  • if it is safe to do so, approach the koala from behind and place a washing basket (or similar item with ventilation) over the koala
  • put something heavy on top of the basket to stop the koala moving away and climbing a tree
  • ensure the koala is left in a quiet and stress free environment
  • call a local wildlife rescue group or vet as soon as possible
  • do not try to move the koala other than out of harms' way, as relocating the koala to a new area can sometimes do more harm than good.

When a koala is stuck in a fence:

  • do not attempt to assist the koala
  • provide some shade for the koala if it is in the sun
  • call a local wildlife rescue group, or vet as soon as possible.

Your local council may be undertaking tree planting initiatives that will support koala communities, such as corridor restoration through a Bushcare group.

Koalas prefer particular feed trees in different parts of NSW. Therefore it is important to remember to use locally sourced koala feed tree stock and to plant near existing koala habitat with a permanent water source.

It is not suitable to plant koala food trees on your property if it is not near other koala habitat, in a fenced area with a dog, close to powerlines or next to a busy road.

Find koala food trees suitable for your region.

Collision with cars is a common cause of koala injuries.

When driving, stick to speed limits, be vigilant near koala crossings and be aware of sign posts warning that koalas are in the area.

The successful rehabilitation rate of koalas back into the wild is low. Licensed Wildlife Rescue organisation reported that 53% of koalas taken into care in 2013-2014 died of their injuries or required euthanasia.

If you see 'floppy fences' (fences with a curved top) protecting a koala community from the road with a hole in it or branches touching the fence, report it to Roads and Maritime Services on 13 22 13.

Many council areas have a local number you can call if you see a koala in the wild. This information helps decision makers to understand where koalas are. Keep an eye out for road signs listing phone numbers, or call your local council.

You can also record your koala sighting on the BioNet Atlas.