A KOALA forest from the Far South Coast to the Southern Tablelands has been proposed in an effort to boost the marsupial’s numbers.
Conservationists are drafting a proposal to present to the NSW and federal governments to create a Great Southern Koala Forest for the once-plentiful animals.
The forest would connect habitat in national parks, state forest and private land.
Until recently, koalas were thought to be extinct in the Eurobodalla, but conservationists have been heartened in the past two years after promising evidence was found south-west and west of Moruya.
Now, the Far South Coast branch of the National Parks Association, with the support of the South East Region Conservation Alliance, is proposing formal corridors be established to encourage movement of remnant populations.
Association spokeswoman Prue Acton said corridors were essential.
“They need to be able to move around in their habitat and go higher if necessary,” Ms Acton said.
However, she said continued logging in potential koala habitat was taking a toll.
“The only place the koalas are happy is the same place that the loggers want,” Ms Acton said.
“If there are no trees, how do the koalas breed?
“They need habitat. They are very territorial animals.”
The forest would stretch from Nowra to the Victorian border and out to the Monaro and Southern Tablelands.
“They are the areas where the existing koala populations are,” Ms Acton said.
“We know of about 800 koalas in that area. It is a grand plan for the south-east of NSW.”
Mrs Acton said koalas were once plentiful along the coast.
“Once upon a time all forests in the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley were suitable habitats for koalas,” she said.
“Now, they only get sighted occasionally.
“There have been occasional sightings and hearings.
“There have been sightings in the Biamanga and Gulaga National Parks and the state forests in between.”
She said a recovering population of about 100 koalas was in the Mumbulla State Forest.
“We want to do more surveys, but we need to make sure their habitat is protected.”
A master plan for the project has been developed.
“A team of experts is being put together,” Ms Acton said.
“We hope to present the plan to the state and federal governments by June 2015. Our aim is to reconnect, protect and restore koala habitats and populations.”
Ms Acton said she saw a strong future for the forestry industry in protecting koalas.
“We see that the people who work in state forests would have a great future in looking after our forests for biodiversity, for carbon and for tourism,” she said.
“There would be so many jobs in making sure we restore our forests back to multi-species forests.”
Ms Acton said monoculture forests were more fire-prone and less species thrived within them.