New koala population found in Coolah Tops before first statewide count gets underway

A healthy koala population has been discovered in the high-elevation forests of Coolah Tops National Park with the help of thermal drones and sniffer dogs.

Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus

The 42 koalas have been identified in Coolah Tops and on adjoining land after a survey was conducted by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service researchers as part of the NSW Koala Strategy.

This is an exceptional outcome, as there have been only 5 recorded sightings in Coolah Tops National Park in the last 70 years. 

Although a few historic koala records exist, and recent audio detections of koala bellows were recorded in the area during spring 2022, nothing was known about whether a population of koalas persisted at Coolah Tops National Park.

The Department of Planning and Environment is now preparing a statewide koala count to establish a population baseline for the endangered species – a first for New South Wales. 

A systematic koala count on public land is already underway, in national parks, state forest and other public land throughout eastern and central New South Wales.

The count will be conducted using nocturnal infrared drones, trained koala spotters and sound recorders deployed across 1,000 sites.

Understanding the distribution and size of the current koala population is vital for tracking the recovery of this iconic species into the future.

Last weekend, the Minns Labor Government also protected 4,500 hectares of bushland containing an estimated 30 to 60 koalas west of Port Macquarie. 

The bushland is within the traditional lands of the Birpai nation and occupies a critical position between 2 known koala populations at Comboyne and South Kempsey. 

Quotes attributable to NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe:

'These are 3 great wins in the fight to secure our koala population in New South Wales.'  

'The Minns Labor Government is focused on saving our koala population in New South Wales. To save our koala population we need to know where the koalas are, how many koalas are out there, because without this information, everything else is just guesswork.'

'We’ve started protecting koala-preferred habitat from logging or grazing, we’re using cutting-edge technology to confirm koala numbers, and we will create the Great Koala National Park in our first term in government.'