Koalas keep on coming, now in Winmalee

Press Release – Koalas are back in the Blue Mountains. Not long after the exciting report of a male koala at Govetts Leap in Blackheath, a run of koala sightings in Winmalee has caused quite a stir. There have been 5 koala sightings recorded in the area since October 2018.  It’s not all good news though, as many of these koalas are at risk.

The Winmalee sightings have all been close to the busy Hawkesbury Road, and also to people’s backyards.

Science for Wildlife has been running the Blue Mountains Koala Project for four years and is mapping koalas and their habitats in the region to identify threats and help conserve them. Dr Kellie Leigh, Executive Director, says it is good news that koala populations appear to be growing, but it’s up to the community to help protect them.

“Koalas like areas with good soils like people do. If you look at a map of the mountains and also up north along Bell’s Line of Road then you can pretty much pick out the patches of good soils by wherever the roads and development are located. These places can be magnets for koalas coming out of the protected areas, as the most nutritious trees grow there. They will happily cross roads, backyards and paddocks to get to those trees, where they are at risk from vehicle collisions and domestic dog attacks”

Locals can help by slowing down and keeping a look out for koalas crossing on Hawkesbury Road around Winmalee, then down into the Hawkesbury, and also up back to Bilpin on Bell’s Line of Road.

Koala in Winmalee, feeding
Koala in Winmalee seen today, happily feeding on a Eucalyptus punctata (grey gum). When these tree species occur on good soils they can attract koalas into developed areas. (Photo: Cale Brown).

Little is known about the koalas in the region, and they aren’t the only species that we need more information on. Blue Mountains City Council, with support from Greater Sydney Local Land Services is running a city–wide citizen science fauna survey, collecting community sighting records on all native animals, great and small from across the Blue Mountains. Community sightings help to gain a better understanding of what animals live where, which helps inform wildlife management.

A great spot to look for local wildlife is in the forests which grow on the rich shale-based soils of the lower mountains. These soils support rare and threatened forests such as Blue Mountains Shale Cap Forest, Shale Sandstone Transition Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest which are home to a range threatened species including the koala, powerful owl and greater glider.

These high nutrient forests occur mainly on private land and the trees are at risk from clearing. Some of the favourite tree species shared by both koalas and greater gliders include Eucalyptus cypellocarpa (monkey gum), Eucalyptus deanei (round-leaved blue gum), Eucalyptus viminalis (manna gum or ribbon gum) and Eucalyptus piperita (peppermint), and koalas also love Eucalyptus punctata (grey gum).

Based on the number of reports so far, the koala sightings are likely to continue, says Dr Leigh. “Koala mating season starts around September each year and goes until the end of summer. Particularly in these first few months koalas are moving around a lot more to find each other to mate, and the joeys from last year are dispersing. It’s the time of year you can also hear the males bellowing.”

There are several ways you can help to conserve koalas and other species in the mountains.

Vickii Lett from WIRES says “Maintaining koala habitats is the key, if we replant their food trees and reconnect what is left of these forests then we’ll keep our koalas. Also, if you have dogs please keep them under control and in particular make sure they are secured at night, when koalas are most likely to be on the ground moving between trees.”

Please report any koala sightings to us via this website or our app (“Koala Spotters”, in the Google Play store)

For information on the Fauna Survey: https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/media-centre/blue-mountains-fauna-project

WIRES Rescue – 1300094739 or use the WIRES App.