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Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project

This short film showcases the valuable work being undertaken to conserve our koala population in the Southern Highlands.

The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project was established by Wingecarribee Shire Council in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage in 2014. 

The project was initiated following a major bush fire in October2013 that burnt over 15,000 hectares of bushland to the north of the Shire. Within days of the fire, Council began receiving reports of koalas appearing in backyards and being struck by vehicles on the Hume Highway. These reports surprised many local residents, including long-serving Council staff, many of whom were unaware of the local presence of koalas.

Recognising there was very limited available information about the Shire's koala population, Council approached the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage's (OEH) Threatened Species team seeking expert advice on how Council might help manage its koalas. It soon became clear that not only was the Southern Highlands home to a significant koala population, but this population had also been largely overlooked in terms of research and conservation efforts.

Following an initial 5-day survey and pilot study funded by Council's Environment Levy, the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project was formally established with the overarching goals of providing a clear direction for the long-term conservation of koalas in the Southern Highlands and making this the best understood koala colony in NSW. A set of clear objectives were also set:

Community engaged in koala conservation & corridor planning.

Ongoing - massive increase in community sightings due to publicity & engagement activities
List of local feed tree species, including those suitable for planting in rehabilitation projects.Complete, but further research would be beneficial.
Accurate assessment of koala population size & health.Population estimated at over 3,000 koalas, the largest population in southern NSW.

Health: Approx 70-80% have chlamydia.

Ongoing monitoring required to keep track of overall numbers & health.
Map of key koala habitat & corridorsCurrently in development (Green Web)
Development of a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for the Southern HighlandsListed as a priority in the NSW Dept of Planning’s Southern Tablelands Regional Plan 2036.
List of threats, including particular hazards such as road fatality black spots and potential ameliorative measures.Hotspots identified on Hume Highway and discussions with RMS requesting wildlife exclusion fencing & underpasses.

Electronic signs alerting motorist to koalas went live in September 2017.

Community Awareness & Research

Since the project was established, the project team has undertaken spotlight surveys and habitat assessments at 697 sites throughout the Shire, actively engaging the local community, and forming valuable partnerships with a range of research and conservation organisations. The project team was also been able to monitor the movements of 20 koalas over the course of six months using GPS-tracking technology, much of this funded privately with the support of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

In March 2017, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage confirmed that, based on the data collected by the project, it was estimated that over 3,000 koalas reside in the Southern Highlands, making it the largest koala population in southern NSW and representing around 10% of the total koala population in the State.

The project continues to generate significant publicity and was recognised as a finalist in the 2017 Local Government NSW Excellence in the Environment Awards in the category of Natural Environment Protection & Enhancement: On-Ground Works.

Next Steps

  • The project team is currently using the new Wingecarribee Shire native vegetation map to assist in the mapping of important koala habitat and wildlife corridors. These will be crucial in the development of the Green Web project - a map of high environmental value lands across the Shire that will help define priority investment areas for biodiversity conservation.
  • Council has also recently invested in further survey works to fill data gaps identified by the native vegetation mapping project.
  • Development of a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPoM) for the Shire - an action defined as a high priority by the NSW Department of Planning in the South East & Tablelands Regional Plan 2036.

Reporting sightings
Please report ALL sightings or evidence of activity (scats, scratchings, bellowing, etc) to the Koala Hotline 4868 0888 or by messaging the Southern Highlands Koala Facebook page

If the koala appears injured call Wildlife Rescue South Coast 0418 427 214 or WIRES 4862 1788

Do not attempt to pat a koala! They may look cuddly, but koalas have sharp claws and can be aggressive if threatened. Stay a safe distance away to take photos.

What else can I do to help?

  • Consider planting koala’s preferred habitat trees in the Southern Highlands: Eucalyptus cypellocarpa, quadrangulata, punctata, oblonga, globoidea, mannifera, seiberi, radiata or sclerophylla
    (Preferred species will depend on local soils). 
  • Keep dogs secured while you are not at home and preferably indoors at night. Consider owning a small dog.
  • Dogs should be kept on a leash at all times outside the home. Notify Council if you see dogs roaming or un-leashed.
  • Erect koala friendly fences. Open form fencing (wire, post and rail) or pailings are best. Consider a fence bridge and fence capping if you have colorbond.
  • Incorporate trees into the fenceline or place overlapping trees on each side of the fence to form a bridge.
  • Maintain healthy bushland around your home and plant a variety of native feed trees and shrubs.
  • Drive slowly and cautiously in peri-urban areas, particularly at night. 
  • Swimming pools - drape a secured piece of rope, shade cloth or gutter guard into the pool to enable koalas to climb out if they fall in.

More information

facebookFacebook - Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project

pdfWSC Koala hotline brochure (PDF, 300kB)

linkLearn more about koalas (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage)

For further information about the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project, please contact Council's Environmental Projects Officer on (02) 4868 0813 or email Joe.Stammers@wsc.nsw.gov.au


Last Updated: September 28th, 2017
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