Rediscovering Southern Highlands koalas

A satellite tracking project involving 20 koalas is shedding light on this free-ranging population and its habitat.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) wearing radio collar

The story of the Southern Highlands koalas is one of hope and population recovery. The first koala ever spotted by a European was in the Southern Highlands. The first specimen sent away to the Museums of Europe was collected here too – a couple of paws traded from some local Aboriginals and stored in a bottle of rum.

Even the word ‘koala’ comes from the Highlands with the Gundungurra calling them Colo or Cola, from which the hamlet of Colo Vale gets its name.

Yet the koalas of the Highlands have been largely overlooked since the 1930s when drought, fire and the fur trade decimated the population. Ever since, unbeknown to most residents, the Highlands koalas have been quietly rebuilding their population.

Now, an innovative project is reacquainting the human residents of the Highlands with its most loved furry, tree-dwelling residents.

Twenty koalas have been fitted with satellite tracking tags and set free to provide information on where koalas live, what they eat and how they move about. Hundreds of spotlighting sites have been created to help build maps of habitat and corridors for use in conservation and development planning – to ensure that the Highlands koalas never again suffer a population crash and that they can continue to live, breed and move about as they have done for millennia.