AWC took part in an important mission to return a group of Koalas to their home in the bush last week, after they were rescued from catastrophic bushfires in the NSW Blue Mountains last December.
Following an exceptionally challenging summer, it’s the latest example of conservation organisations pulling together to provide hope for Australia’s wildlife.
The Blue Mountains Koalas are the focus of extensive research by the non-profit organisation, Science for Wildlife. Executive Director Kellie Leigh runs the project and the research has already revealed that the local Koala population is particularly important. The region’s Koalas are the most genetically diverse in the country, making them critical for the conservation of the species.
As fires encroached on known Koala habitat in late December, Kellie and her team moved quickly to catch Koalas in the path of the blaze and remove them to a safe location. The evacuated Koalas were housed at Taronga Zoo, where they were provided with freshly picked eucalyptus leaves to satisfy their unique dietary preferences. After substantial rainfall in February and March, vegetation in the area has started to recover, and last week it was time for the Koalas to return home.
AWC senior field ecologist, Andy Howe, was engaged to help with the release operation. Andy has more than a decade of experience working with Koalas in southeast Queensland and Victoria and is a certified tree climber. Working alongside Brian Coulter, also an ecologist and certified tree climber, Andy assisted with the Koala releases, as well as radio-tracking and monitoring the animals in the following days.
Encouragingly, during the homecoming mission, several Koalas new to the study were detected along the edge of the bushfire-affected area. Healthy individuals that had survived the devastating fires were also found feeding on the regrowth in burnt-out areas.
AWC is proud to have been involved in the rescue of this critical Koala population. We thank Science for Wildlife for inviting us to take part in this important mission.
We are incredibly grateful to our donors and supporters who enable us to continue collaborating with conservation groups to help wildlife recover from the bushfires.