Mt Kembla's 'new' koala population

Recent sightings of koalas at Mount Kembla have renewed hope that Illawarra’s koala population is coming back from the brink.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in a tree, Southern Highlands

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Senior Threatened Species Officer Kylie Madden said eight koala have been spotted over three nights in recent weeks as part of a new survey of the area.

“These findings come just two months after a lone koala was accidently captured on a motion-sensor camera just west of Mount Kembla, in an area where koalas have not been seen for more than 70 years,” Ms Madden said.

“Following this unexpected sighting OEH started formally surveying Mount Kembla last month.

“Finding eight koalas in such a short period of time is extremely encouraging and as the survey progresses we hope to get a much clearer picture of the size and extent of this koala population.

“The koalas spotted in recent weeks are all adults and four of the eight were heard ‘bellowing’, the noise male koalas make when looking for a female.

“This is an extremely encouraging sign that we may have a breeding population here, something that only a few months ago was not even considered as a possibility.

“Its early days but the survey results suggest these koalas have recolonised Mount Kembla from a population near East Kangaloon approximately 25km away, or from a colony near Campbelltown.

“Young koalas are known to walk up to 50km looking for unoccupied territories.

“Despite there being no records of koalas for decades, these koalas have very much ‘moved back in’, rediscovering a patch of good habitat above the escarpment,” Ms Madden said.

These sightings coincide with reports of a lone koala seen near the base of Macquarie Pass on Sunday 30 October.

This koala was most likely a dispersing male looking for suitable unoccupied habitat.

It’s unlikely there is a koala population extending to the base of Macquarie Pass, but the sighting is further evidence that koalas in the region are expanding in numbers and range.

The Mount Kembla Koala Survey will continue until December 2016. Results will also inform OEH’s Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project, for more information on the conservation of this iconic species, vistit the OEH website.

Photos for media:  Mt Kembla Koala Survey 2016

Contact: Sarah Scroope