Blue Mountains Koala Project
Help save our most treasured national icon
Science for Wildlife is working to find and map our koala populations in order to conserve them. We’re using ground-breaking techniques like wildlife detection dogs to find low density koala populations, and we are calling on you to tell us when you see a koala.
Koalas are a threatened species, vulnerable to extinction across most of their range in Australia. Once a thriving 3-4 million community, koala numbers are now as low as 300,000. Saving each and every koala population is vital to the species’ survival, and you can help.
Why do we need to know where koalas live?
Following the 2013 bushfires in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, koalas were spotted in parts of the Mountains in which they had not been seen for decades. Driven out by the ferocity of the fires, the death toll on the region’s koala and wider wildlife population will never be known. However, the fires did alert us to the presence of koalas in the region. We are working across a vast area from the Hawkesbury and Wollemi National Park in the east, right out west to Kanangra-Boyd and Newnes Plateau.
We started the Blue Mountains Koala Project in 2014. From our research so far, it turns out this is a critically important area for koalas. The huge network of protected areas is a potential refuge for koalas under climate change, as habitats out west become less suitable for koalas and habitats to the east are under increasing human development pressure. The region also contains the most genetically diverse koalas in the country, making them important for conservation of the species. The koalas in this World Heritage region have more choice of food trees and habitats than anywhere else so our studies are also helping us to better understand koala ecology, and the factors that determine why they use one area and not another.
Science for Wildlife is working to find these koala populations in order to help conserve them. Once the populations are found and mapped and the threats to koalas identified, the information is shared with land managers, rural fire services and community groups to protect koalas and restore koala habitats.
Take a look at the Our Team page to meet some of our research collaborators.
How do we find them?
- Step 1We use citizen science – you can help! We are collecting reports of koala sightings from the community – if you see a koala within our study area please let us know. The information we have received so far has been incredibly helpful – the world heritage area is over 1 million hectares in size and we can’t survey it all. When we receive a collection of sightings from one area, we know to target our surveys in those habitats. So far with your help we’ve identified 5 potential study sites. Register here to become a Koala Spotter, or report a sighting.
- Step 2We are developing creative new ways of finding koalas where traditional survey methods fail. Based on our previous research with detection dogs, we are using koala-sniffing dogs to help us map koala populations across the Blue Mountains region, and out as far west as Bathurst.
- Step 3Once we have found the koalas, we carry out detailed ecological research at selected sites and track koala movements to find out which habitats they use, which trees species they need, their mortality rates and what threats they face so that we have the information we need to conserve them. We also collaborate with university researchers and students including the University of Sydney, taking on students to give them in field research skills.
We share all of this information with land managers and communities to better inform their conservation programs.
How you can help
• If you have seen a koala in the last 12 months – Tell us! You can use our online form, or download our “Koala Spotters” app in the Google Play store – or send us an email to let you know when the app is in the Apple store for iphones.
• Make a donation to support our koala mapping project and detection dog training.
• Volunteer to join our field surveys for koalas. Subscribe now.
Based on several years of research we have produced the very first maps of koala habitats in the region of SE Wollemi National Park, and have identified risk hotspots for koalas in the nearby developed areas in the Hawkesbury. Check out our maps here
We are now working hard at our second study site around Kanangra-Boyd National Park.