South Coast koala conservation

Although koalas are now rarely seen in the south-eastern corner of NSW, two recent koala sightings, one near Aragunnu and the other at Wapengo, are very exciting for the koala conservation team and community volunteers.

Koala in the Murrah and Mumbulla flora reservesSince 2007, a team of Office of Environment and Heritage and National Parks and Wildlife Service staff, led by South East Regional Operations, has worked with community-based contractors and volunteers to survey koala populations in this part of the State and support the conservation of the surviving koalas.

The project is now focused on monitoring the population and managing the habitat both on reserves, parks and private lands to ensure there is enough diversity and quantity of koala food trees to sustain the population.

The monitoring program was designed with the help of the University of Canberra and is being implemented as part of the Saving Our Species Iconic Koala Project. Local contractors and volunteers continue to undertake the field surveys, and the results indicate the population is stable.

If you are interested in undertaking koala habitat regeneration work on your private land, please email the Saving our Species team.

Managing and restoring koala habitat

Office of Environment and Heritage is also working with National Parks staff and the local community to look at ways of improving the regeneration of trees preferred by koalas.

The study explores options for koala habitat rehabilitation in dense regenerated forest that characterises much of the study area.

Some trial plots have been set up to work out the best way to get the preferred trees to regenerate. Volunteers assisted with on-ground preparation at 1 of the research sites.

As part of this project, a koala habitat rehabilitation workshop was held at the Crossing Land Education Centre in May that made lots of seedballs.

The seedballs consist of a clay, peat mulch, cayenne pepper (to deter ant predation) and the seed of koala browse species that is mixed with water in a concrete mixer to form small balls that are dried and distributed. The balls disintegrate in prolonged wet conditions and so germination occurs in optimum conditions.

Koala health

Office of Environment and Heritage is also working with the University of Sydney Koala Health Hub to look at the health of the population using information gathered from scats. The University analyses the scats to extract genetic and disease information about the koalas, which will assist in understanding and managing the population into the future.

Fire management

Office of Environment and Heritage worked with University of Melbourne, the NSW Rural Fire Service, and the local community through the hotspots program to develop the best approach to fire management to reduce risk and help protect houses and koala habitat.

The most effective option has been adopted as the Murrah Landscape Fire Management Strategy. This risk assessment approach to fire management is being used in other areas including the Southern Tablelands.

The Aboriginal community has initiated a cultural burning proposal to support traditional owners' to:

  • work on-country
  • complement the regional fire management strategy
  • protect and restore habitat, sustaining threatened species (the koala and long-nosed potoroo in the Biamanga National Park and Murrah Flora Reserve).

This is an exciting initiative that will deepen the partnership between the Aboriginal community and other land managers to care for this country.