Sadly, the wild koala population in Australia is on the decline and has been for over 10 years. Around 90 percent of koalas have become extinct due to frequent forest fires and land clearing in the area. There are anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 koalas living in Australia currently and in one particular region, the Southern Highlands of Australia, there are only a recorded 200 koalas living.
The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project was formed in 2013 after one such forest fire wiped out a significant percentage of the population. What’s more, the forested area that was once a lush and inviting residence for these koalas was no more. The animals were forced to go outside the forested areas into unfamiliar territory, which often lead to more deaths.
Luckily, after the fire, this group raced into the devastated area and began fitting endangered koalas with GPS tracking collars. Doing so provides a non-invasive way to make sure the koalas are in a safe area with plenty of food and are making their homes where other koalas survive. By moving some populations together they can ensure that the groups will both continue to grow and will also stay near each other instead of wandering into unsafe territories.
Stranded koalas have been known to latch onto any trees they can find that will provide a means of sustenance. This could mean somewhere that is not protected, near water, nor provides long term sustenance. These lone koalas have even been seen near public roads and in some private dwellings as well as just wandering through areas that used to be their homes. Forests containing koalas have been destroyed due to numerous land development projects. Another goal of the project group is to inform land owners, buyers, and builders about the seriousness of this situation so that they can then make informed decisions on where to build.
Not only is the group helping the animals find their own personal oasis in the middle of the devastation and deserts, but the Southern Highlands community has actually banded together in order to allow the koalas into their lands to thrive. A sanctuary has been designated as the koalas home. The sanctuary is connected to a large national park which will provide the animals with sustainable living environments and peace from the outside world.
Biologists have joined the group to examine all koalas that they find. Unfortunately, a form of chlamydia has been passed throughout many of these tiny survivors. In addition to rehoming the koalas to a safer area, the biologists are helping to cure some very serious and life threatening diseases, like chlamydia, in order to save the population. If signs of this disease are not treated the animal will go through extreme suffering including mouth and eye lesions that will lead to ultimate blindness, starvation, and death. These saviors bring any infected or sickly animals into care, at the University of Sydney Wildlife & Health Conservation Center, for immediate attention and are not released until the animal’s diagnosis is fully clear.
Given that the population is much scarcer than it once was, finding koalas that are infected in order to stop the spread of such diseases is very difficult. These koalas so finely spread out over such a large area that many animals go without diagnosis or care. The researchers have determined that these issues have spread due to lack of habitat. So, the group is doing the most they can to help their environment grow and protect it from unnecessary deforestation and natural disasters, like forest fires.
Local communities have happily embraced the goal of this team and have helped out in any way possible. The group actually set up a koala spotting hotline for anyone who may come across a lost or struggling koala. The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project has also set up social media efforts for those who want to get out and take action to help these majestic and native Australian creatures.