Citizen scientists deliver welcome koala news

The National Parks Association of NSW applauds today’s release of a landmark citizen-science survey of a ‘bearly’ known population of Koalas in Heathcote National Park.  The survey, involving more than 600 hours of field survey by respected local naturalists Steve Anyon-Smith and Tom Kristensen, photographed 32 individual koalas and suggests a total population of a least 100 koalas in Heathcote National Park.

NPA has written to Environment Minister Matt Kean asking for the Heathcote Koalas to be declared as an Asset of Intergenerational Significance.  This is a new legislative measure designed to guarantee the protection of highly significant areas of biodiversity value within protected areas. 

‘We really didn’t expect to find a substantial koala population in a national park with only a handful of historic records’ stated report co-author Steve Anyon-Smith.  ‘Early on we wondered whether it was just a few wanderers from the better known colony near Campbelltown, but once we saw that first female with a joey we knew it was much more’. 

NPA Executive Officer, Gary Dunnett noted ‘The future of koalas hangs in the balance because of continuing habitat loss, development, unsustainable forestry and the devastating impacts of the 2019/20 fires.  This report of breeding koalas right on the doorstop of Sydney should bring a smile to everyone’s face.

‘This report is a testament to the power of citizen science.  The results are only possible because of the hundreds of hours they spent in the field, which has given us a standard of coverage that most researchers could only dream of.  These two citizen scientists have provided the National Parks and Wildlife Service with detailed information worth tens of thousands of dollars at absolutely no cost. 

‘The Heathcote National Park koalas need all the help they can get if they are going to survive into the next century.  They will need protection from disturbance and domestic dogs and keeping their habitat in the best possible ecological condition.  A major challenge will be making sure their habitat trees aren’t damaged by too-frequent fire’. 

‘There is every reason to feel hopeful about the future of the Heathcote koalas, even if they have gone largely unnoticed to date’ Gary Dunnett continued.  ‘The next big challenge is to protect other ‘at risk’ koala populations.  The time has come for the NSW Government to adopt NPA’s proposals for the Upper Georges River National Park in southwest Sydney and the Great Koala National Park on the mid north coast’ Dunnett concluded.  

ENDS

Media Contact: NPA EO, Gary Dunnett: (02) 9299 0000

Copies of the report Anyon-Smith, S. and Kristensen, T (2021) Observed distribution and numbers of Koalas Phascolarctos cinereus in a habitat survey of Heathcote National Park July to September 2021 below

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However, NPA is calling on Minister Kean to be true to his word and protect the multitude of threatened species in Kosciuszko National park, being pushed to extinction by unsustainable development and poor management policies. 

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The National Parks Association of NSW and the Nature Conservation Council have launched a campaign to stop a massive intensification of commercial development within Kosciuszko National Park. 

The NSW Government is proposing to increase the cap on resort beds by more than 40% (up from 10,915 to 15,360), build new and expanded carparks, allow helicopter flights onto the ski fields, and open walking tracks to four-wheel drive vehicles.