Koala Habitat Maps

We are pleased to be able to share some updates from our Blue Mountains Koala Project.

From September 2020 to February 2021 the team undertook over 100 scat surveys in the Hawkesbury region, the first of their 5 study sites, to track koalas that had survived the 2019/20 bushfires. Another 100 surveys have been completed in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park area. The field surveys were led by Science for Wildlife Research Scientist, Victoria Inman, with help from hard-working and dedicated volunteers. As well as surveys, we encouraged local communities to report any koala sightings directly to us. Using all of the information provided by earlier ecological research several years before the bushfires, we combined a range of data to create maps to show how the koala colonies are tracking.

The pre-fire maps are based off combined research data done prior to the 2019/20 bushfires. Results combine data from ecological studies, surveys and community sightings.

Pre fire habitat map

The post-fire map indicates how the density of koala records in different habitat has changed since the bushfires.

The good news is that koalas are being found distributed across the post-fire landscape, with most occurring in the unburnt and low intensity burn zone. However, koalas are fewer in number since the fires and there are still concerns. Dr Kellie Leigh, CEO, explained that if koala numbers are too low that can lead to ongoing population decline through a process called “small population dynamics”.

The team has another 200 to 300 surveys to go across other sites including the Lower Blue Mountains, and in the meantime, they have created a predictive map of koala habitats in that region (see below). A lot of the map is flagged as possible koala habitat. Leigh says that koalas in the mountains are using a huge diversity of trees so it’s hard to accurately predict where they will be found.

If you live in or near likely or possible koala habitat, please keep a look out and report any sightings. It is particularly important to be aware of koalas and conserve them in and around developed areas now, since those are asset protection ones and most habitats did not burn, acting as a refuge for koalas and other species. Koalas in those pockets of intact habitat can eventually help recolonize burnt habitats, including inside protected areas.

Lower Blue Mountains Koala Habitat Map. Based on community sightings and pilot surveys, with full surveys still to come.

Lower BMs map

Koala Risk Hotspot Map

koala risk hotspots

 This map shows the highest risk areas, where you are most likely to find koalas coming into the developed area. If you live in or near one of these Koala Risk Hotspots please do everything you can to help take care of the koalas that live here. That includes slow driving, responsible dog ownership, and helping to protect and restore koala habitats.

If you ever see or hear a koala, make sure you report it directly to Science for Wildlife through our Koala Spotters Facebook page: Blue Mountains Koala Spotters | Facebook, our website: Science For Wildlife | Report a koala sighting, or volunteer or through the Government’s iSpy APP: I Spy Koala (NSW Government) | Citizen Science Hub | SEED Citizen Science Hub

The survey work was undertaken with support from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) under the Koala Research Plan and NSW Koala Strategy. Thanks to the WIRES-Landcare Wildlife Relief and Recovery Grants for help engaging volunteers and sharing this information with communities.