Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project

SH koala project - image of Koala sitting in tree. Image credit Patrick Tegart.

Koalas (Guula) in the Southern Highlands

The Southern Highlands is home to an estimated 3,000 koalas, which is 10% of the NSW Koala population. 

The Southern Highlands has a long history with Koalas: the Gundungurra Traditional Owners call Koalas “Guula” and the first recorded sighting of a koala by a European was in Bargo in 1798. The Southern Highlands Koala population virtually disappeared during the 20th century, due to a deadly combination of habitat clearing, hunting for the fur trade, and drought. 

The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project is working to ensure that our Koalas are surviving and thriving in the wild. The project is addressing six main issues to protect Koalas and their habitat in the long term:

  1. Private land conservation
  2. Habitat restoration
  3. Fire management
  4. Road kill
  5. Population monitoring
  6. Supporting Koala carers

The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project is proudly supported by the NSW Government’s Saving our Species Program and Wingecarribee Shire Council’s Environment Levy.


Where are the best places to see Koalas in the Southern Highlands?

Koalas are notoriously hard to find because they are so good at camouflaging into the tree canopy. Our research shows that almost all bushland in the Wingecarribee Shire is Koala habitat. If you want to see Koalas in the Southern Highlands, we recommend that you try your luck at:

  • Mansfield Reserve, East Bowral
  • Guula Ngurra National Park – Mount Penang Walk

If you do see a koala, make sure you report it to the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project. 

Koala Spotter App:

Call the Koala Hotline: 02 4868 0888


How Can You Help Koalas?

Look after Koala habitat at home

If you have bushland at home, you can protect the koala habitat on your property by joining the Land for Wildlife program (need more than 0.5 hectares of bush) or signing up to the Conservation Partners Program with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (need at least 20 hectares of bushland).

Get in touch via the rural landholder Koala interest form if you want to know more:

Rural Landholder Koala Conservation Interest Form 

Plant Koala Habitat

Incorporating Koala habitat trees into your property is a great way to create new Koala habitat and potentially connect existing patches of koala habitat together. 

You can buy local provenance Koala habitat seedlings from Wariapendi Nursery in Colo Vale – these seedlings are grown from seed collected by the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project and a portion of the price of each seedling sold goes to supporting local Koala carers.

If you don’t have anywhere to plant koala habitat at your place you can volunteer with one of Wingecarribee’s bushcare groups.

Koala habitat planting guides

Revegetating Koala Habitat – Central Coast Koala Management Area

Wingecarribee version – coming soon!

Become a Citizen Scientist

All Koala records are Since 2014 we have had more than 350 community sightings of Koalas reported to the Southern Highlands Koala Project. All community records are uploaded to the NSW BioNet – the official wildlife atlas for NSW.

Report your koala sightings using one of the following methods:

Koala Spotter App 

Call the Koala Hotline: 02 4868 0888 

Report injured or distressed koalas to Wildlife Carers

If you see a koala that is injured or in distress on the ground, then call either:

Wildlife Rescue South Coast Inc: 0418 427 214

WIRES: 1300 094 737


Koala Karaoke Party

The Koala Karaoke Party was held in September 2021. Join guest host, Julia Zemiro, and the Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project to learn more about Southern Highlands koalas!


Biodiversity Conservation Projects in the Shire

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Key Outcomes

Council has been instrumental in leading and developing this project in partnership with state government agencies, particularly the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NSW BCT).

The project is considered an exemplar for other regions for the long-term protection of the largest population of koalas in southern NSW. What was the least understood koala population is now one of the best understood – a key goal of this highly successful project.

Since 2018, the following key outcomes include:

Koala habitat conservation

  1. Over 2579 hectares over seven privately-owned properties in permanent conservation agreements in Wingecarribee Shire with over $28 million invested (NSW BCT – Conservation Tender 11)
  2. The new Guula Ngurra National Park which conserves 3358 hectares for koalas and other wildlife in partnership with Gundungurra traditional owners and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)
  3. Expansion of the Land for Wildlife network with currently 186 active properties conserving 3763 hectares voluntarily for wildlife conservation. This represents about 7% of all koala habitat found on private land in the shire.
  4. Over 2200 koala habitat trees (local provenance) given away to Land for Wildlife properties to create new habitat (approx. 22 hectares of habitat reconstruction).
  5. 1800 koala habitat trees planted to create new habitat (22 ha) at Guula Ngurra NP.
  6. Chemical training (Chemcert) offered to local Aboriginal people to assist with restoring koala habitat on country at Guula Ngurra NP.


Supporting local communities to conserve koalas

  1. Providing citizen science opportunities for the community to record koala sightings through an online application
  2. Creation and involvement of a public land management inter-agency working group to exchange ideas and collaborate on conservation programs and projects. Member organisations include DPE, NPWS, WaterNSW, ForestryCorp, NSW BCT, Local Land Services, Wingecarribee Shire Council and Wollondilly Shire Council.
  3. Supporting landholders with ecological assessments and land management advice through Land for Wildlife.
  4. Supporting the Flora Reserve Working Group to achieve better conservation outcomes in the new Jellore, Belanglo and Meryla Flora Reserves
  5. Working with indigenous stakeholders to deliver on the ground outcomes
  6. Delivery of multiple workshops, celebratory events, education resources and newsletters
  7. Partnering with other providers (Rivers of Carbon, South East Local Land Services, and Greening Australia) to deliver better conservation outcomes for koalas.

Improving the safety and health of koalas

1.     Supporting carers to provide the best possible care to injured or sick koalas

2.     Facilitating workshops across all care organisations to improve care standards and outcomes

3.     Developing a vehicle strike mitigation action plan for priority roads including Tourist Road at Kangaloon.

Building our knowledge of koala

  • Facilitating community-led sightings of koalas
  • Establishing a methodology for long-term Koala monitoring
  • Delivery of two Koala Karaoke bioacoustics monitoring programs in 2020 and 2021 where naïve occupancy was estimated to be 23% and 30% respectively. This involved the deployment and retrieval of 125 (2020) and 135 (2021) audiomoths in accessible and remote bushland across the shire. A third year of monitoring is planned for 2022.