The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project aims to gain a better understanding of koala distribution, habitat, status and threats throughout the Southern Highlands.
Based on the data collected by the project, it has been 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 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 October 2013 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 & corridors||Currently in development (Green Web)|
|Development of a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for the Southern Highlands||Listed 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.
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 in the 2017 Local Government NSW Excellence in the Environment Awards as a winner in the category of Natural Environment Protection & Enhancement: On-Ground Work
WSC Koala hotline brochure (PDF, 300kB)
Learn more about koalas (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage)
If the koala appears injured call Wildlife Rescue South Coast 0418 427 214 or WIRES 4862 1788.
For further information about this project Conservation Project, please contact Council on 4868 0888 or email email@example.com