2020 December: Lower Glenelg Conservation Park (South Australia)

Koala numbers in regional SA appear to be rising, despite national decline and Black Summer bushfires

3 December 2020


A South Australian region is reporting an upswing in koala numbers despite warnings the iconic animal is under threat in some states.

The South Australian Wildlife Department has revealed there are climbing koala numbers in the Limestone Coast, which straddles the Western Victorian border.

This trend is considered positive news following thousands of the marsupials perishing on Kangaroo Island and in other states during the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

The Federal Government has launched a koala census in key habitat areas in South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Victoria to safeguard the future survival of the threatened species.

The Australian Koala Foundation has released statistics warning the national wild koala population could be fewer than 80,000, and labelled the animal “functionally extinct” before the bushfires even started.

Growing koala population a positive sign

Lower Limestone Coast National Parks and Wildlife Service district ranger Ross Anderson said the region’s growing koala population was a “good news story” given dwindling numbers in some states due to bushfires, loss of habitat, and road trauma.

“They’re not in numbers that they’re causing a problem to themselves, the environment, or to industry.

“Koalas in the south-east of South Australia are considered part of the greater Victorian population, which occur naturally in the area.”

While no specific numbers were available, he said sightings were on the rise and the animal was being reported in new areas where they were not found 20 years ago.

Mr Anderson said the Limestone Coast had six different trees that provided habitat for koalas in not only native forest areas but in blue gum commercial plantations.

Koalas spotted ‘in and around’ town centres

Mr Anderson said koalas were being found in and around built up areas, including Mount Gambier.

“Certainly there are some in around town, and you’ll find them in people’s backyards from time to time, not only in town, but more often in rural areas where people have more trees as a suitable food source,” Mr Anderson said.

He said the rising numbers in the region was a welcome sign given koalas were considered extinct in the 1930s.

“Since that time, koalas have obviously been protected — that has reduced one pressure on them.

“Tree clearing has also been largely controlled and people are actually planting more trees.”

Koalas can be found in the Lower Glenelg Conservation Park, commercial blue gum plantations, and in bush areas across the Limestone Coast.

Mr Anderson said it was important to “get a better handle” of population numbers in the region.

“I’m not convinced we need to increase the population significantly because they appear to be doing it themselves naturally,” he said.

“But it’s more about maintaining their presence in the environment and ensuring there is a safe haven for koalas — they are important in the ecology of the forest as well.”

Mr Anderson said farmers could encourage koalas onto their properties by planting suitable habitat trees and warned motorists to watch out for them.

People should also ensure they manage their dogs where there is koala habitat.

Mount Gambier resident Gerald Bourchier was among local landholders who had seen koalas wander onto their properties in recent months.

“A koala has been in a tree near our house since July,” Mr Bourchier said.

“We then found the mother in a tree.”

Worried about the baby koala, Mr Bourchier said he rang a local fire brigade to see whether they could put the baby koala back into the gum tree with its mother.

Instead, the pint-sized koala was given to a wildlife carer.

“We have no idea where the koalas came from. They may have come from the blue gums near the local golf course.”