Koalas may be back in the Eurobodalla Shire sooner rather than later.
The Eurobodalla Koala Project, lead by Keith Joliffe, has been going since 2010 and has recently had breakthroughs.
“We have now reached a point where we are doing something quite bold, which is to promote a recovery strategy in the shire where there have been very few koalas for a long time,” Mr Joliffe said.
The draft Eurobodalla Koala Recovery Strategy 2014-2026, prepared by the group, aims to bring koalas back to the Eurobodalla area by 2026.
Mr Joliffe, along with a group of eight volunteers, has been working hard on the project and says it is good to finally see it get somewhere.
Having undertaken a pilot study in 2012, and then conducting a series of field surveys, which involved going out into the bush and analysing plots to find koala scats, Mr Joliffe believes they now have a strong scientific model.
In 2009 there had been reports of two possible sightings in the shire and in 2012 a resident recorded audio of a koala about 12 kilometres out of Moruya at Wamban Creek.
The recording was believed to be of a large male, and Mr Joliffe and his volunteers are going back to the area this month to find more evidence.
They are hoping to find out whether the animal recorded late last year was a single animal a long way from a known koala population, such as Bermagui, or whether it was a part of a resident group in the Eurobodalla.
“Whatever the result is, having had a koala found in the shire is pretty significant,” Mr Joliffe said.
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Roads and Maritime Services have already shown interest in the project, and it is hoped Eurobodalla council will jump onboard as well.
Mr Joliffe believes that the most important part of the recovery strategy is education, because “it isn’t too late to have a koala population back in the shire”.
He said once the final draft of the recovery strategy was released it was up to the general public, politicians and Landcare groups to pick it up and take steps to further rehabilitate and recover the koala population within the shire.
“It’s a long process but initially our priorities will be establishing good conditions in the shire’s forest areas,” Mr Joliffe said.
“We are also looking at whether or not the Eurobodalla would be a suitable refuge for koalas from elsewhere as denser areas become under more pressure through urban development and climate change.”
The group is hoping NPWS and OEH will do some rehabilitation of vegetation in the area.
“There is particular interest in parts of the Deua National Park, around the Tuross River, and in the Bodalla State Forest,” Mr Joliffe said.
“There may still be koalas out there; we just have to find them.”