The plight of the koala received global attention in the wake of Australia's devastating bushfire season which saw tens of thousands of animals killed around the country. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
The plight of the koala received global attention in the wake of Australia's devastating bushfire season which saw tens of thousands of animals killed around the country. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Crucial Coffs koala population ‘healthy’, studies reveal

SPARED from the worst of the 2019 bushfires, survey results are showing that a nationally significant Coffs Coast koala population remains "stable and healthy."

The population in Bongil Bongil National Park is now one of the state's biggest following the devastating fires.

Annual koala surveys have been undertaken at Bongil Bongil National Park since 2013 to monitor the abundance of the species over time, as well as to gather observations on their health, distribution and breeding behaviour.

As the 8th annual community survey approaches, NPWS Coffs Coast Area Manager Glen Storrie has revealed the findings so far.

He said volunteers spotted 10 koalas last year and, using audio call back technology, heard the vocalisations of 14 koalas.

"Over the past seven years, more than 300 community volunteers have assisted us with this important survey which helps us to understand how the population is faring over time," Mr Storrie said.

"Based on the last seven years of data, we were able to conclude that the population is stable, healthy and exists from one end of the national park to the other."

The recent report from an Upper House inquiry in the state's koala population determined that the species would be extinct by 2050 without urgent government intervention.

It also recommended that an investigation should be undertaken into establishing the Great Koala National Park in the Coffs Harbour hinterland. The Bongil Bongil population would form part of this proposed 375,000ha national park.

In August, NSW's Lower House voted to support a motion to investigate the park's establishment.

 

Bellingen mayor Dominic King cut the ribbon of the Great Koala National Park Information and Visitor Centre at Urunga in December last year – marking the first tangible step forward for the proposal.
Bellingen mayor Dominic King cut the ribbon of the Great Koala National Park Information and Visitor Centre at Urunga in December last year – marking the first tangible step forward for the proposal.

Jointly funded by Bellingen Shire and Coffs Harbour City councils, the University of Newcastle is also currently undertaking an economic study into the feasibility of the park and its job-making potential.

NPWS are currently calling for community volunteers to assist with the upcoming 8th annual koala survey in Bongil Bongil National Park.

"Bongil Bongil comes alive after dark. Guided by an experienced wildlife ranger, a walk through the eucalyptus forest after dark is a truly unforgettable experience," Mr Storrie said.

"Late September to early October is koala breeding season, so we expect the Bongil Bongil population to be on the move, vocal and easy to spot."

Volunteers are being asked to sign up to complete up to five night-time surveys between September 24 and October 10.

"We're hoping to complete 25 surveys in total, so there are lots of opportunities to get involved."

Volunteers will walk along gravel fire trails in Bongil Bongil National Park, using spotlighting and audio call-back technology to survey the koalas. All equipment will be provided.

NPWS will also implement COVID-safe measures during training and surveying.

A short information and training session for prospective volunteers will be conducted at the NPWS office near the Coffs Harbour Jetty on September 21 at 6pm.

Those interested in participating in the program or who would like to know more are urged to contact NPWS Ranger Martin Smith on 6652 0907 or martin.smith@environment.nsw.gov.au.



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