A once thriving koala population in the Eurobodalla Shire on the NSW South Coast is now so small that sightings are only reported about once every five years.
This has prompted a local group of concerned citizen scientists to work on a new strategy aimed at protecting the area’s remaining koalas.
Recommendations include implementing stricter planning approvals, rope-bridge overpasses across highways and community tree planting days.
The Draft Revised Eurobodalla Koala Recovery Strategy 2021 will be launched at 10 am on Wild Koala Day (3 May) at Lot 16, Annetts Parade in Mossy Point – a controversial development site located on endangered Bangalay sand forest.
It’s been prepared by the Eurobodalla Koala Project and sponsored by the Coastwatchers Association, with light support from the Commonwealth Government, Forestry Corporation of NSW – Southern Region and National Parks and Wildlife Service South Coast Branch.
It will replace the existing strategy published in 2013 and is based on research undertaken since 2011.
The strategy argues Eurobodalla’s temperate climate is the perfect breeding ground for Australia’s favourite marsupial.
It also says there could be community, cultural, employment and training benefits for the region by promoting its koala story, establishing commercial sanctuaries and helping the remaining population thrive.
However, the issue stopping all of that happening is habitat loss, according to the strategy.
Therefore, the strategy advocates for consent only to be given to developments that won’t cut down native trees and will preserve or add to wildlife corridors in future.
The strategy also encourages planning officials to protect areas considered key koala habitat with high nutrient soils, good canopy cover and access to fresh water.
“So much of the best habitat in the Eurobodalla is already lost to koalas. The reason why modern sightings of Eurobodalla koalas are so rare is that the large spaces of remnant forest now tend to occur only on more rugged country with lower fertility soils,” the strategy says.
“The implication for land management agencies and private landholders is therefore that any remnant optimal sites must be preserved and linked, and opportunities to resume and repair optimal sites should be grasped.”
The strategy also advocates for underpasses or rope-bridge overpasses with pole access to be built across highways such as the Princes Highway where there is vegetation on either side.
Cars and trucks kill koalas at a higher rate than they can breed, according to the research behind the strategy.
The strategy has also researched tree species preferred by koalas, such as stringybark and grey ironbark, and recommends community tree planting days to re-establish local koala habitat.
Finally, the strategy calls for improved fire management after many koalas were killed and their homes destroyed in the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.
Private landholders and land managers such as the Forestry Corporation of NSW and National Parks and Wildlife Service should try to strike a balance between hazard reduction and preserving trees, the strategy says.
The Draft Revised Eurobodalla Koala Recovery Strategy 2021 is currently open for consultation and can be read here.