NSW STORIES

Koalas in South East NSW

Koalas once lived here in large numbers but sadly their population has steadily dwindled due to development, forestry and lack of replanting logged koala trees in state forests.

In the southeast of NSW, small but resilient colonies of koalas survive in isolated populations between Bega and Bermagui.

Koalas once lived here in large numbers but sadly their population has steadily dwindled due to development, forestry and lack of replanting logged koala trees in state forests.

Before last summer’s fires the remaining population appeared to be stable, albeit at low levels. They survived decades of logging and were   protected in koala reserves.

Due to difficulty in locating and tracking these koalas, very little is known about them. From what we know, it seems that many survived the fires.

And we also know how important it is to support and protect these remaining colonies.

Aboriginal cultural burning and a long-term approach to habitat restoration will help ensure these koalas are secure long into the future.

Fire has always been a threat to koalas in this area, even before last summer. Some knowledge was gleaned from severe fires in Tathra in 2018. Three research plots were burnt in the Reedy Swamp wildfire, ongoing monitoring of the sites has given an idea of post-fire recovery and tree regeneration in the area.

There appeared to be not much good news from this area after last summer’s bushfire hit the area again – however it was reported that in February a mother and joey were seen on private property in the Murrah, an area that had only moderate impact from the fires. Welcome news in an otherwise grim period.

What of the future? It is increasingly accepted that Aboriginal people can make a vital contribution to fire management and species conservation.

The Mountain Parks Management Plan will draw inspiration and advice from Indigenous fire management practices.  This is about low intensity burns in locations that will help provide buffers against wildfire reaching areas of identified koala activity.

Traditional burning practices will help to achieve this. Generations of knowledge go towards implementing fire prevention and response activities that consider the local koala colonies.

As part of this, the location of known koala activity is an intrinsic part of hazard reduction planning. During active fires, activities such as backburning will have koala conservation at its core.

The Rural Fire Service has said that there needn’t be a conflict between protection of life and property and saving biological assets, however it won’t be achieved without collaboration between the Aboriginal communities, RFS, environmental managers and private landholders.

As the landscape recovers this is a good opportunity to review and consider how we can support the community’s awareness of and contribution to koala conservation.

“Due to difficulty in locating and tracking these koalas, very little is known about them. From what we know, it seems that many survived the fires.”