Koala hospitals in Port Macquarie, Currumbin and the Australia Zoo are reportedly full as wildlife rescuers do their best to save the endangered species from fire-affected areas.
Koala Conservation Australia said as many as 350 koalas were estimated to have died in the fires at the Lake Innes Nature Reserve while volunteers over the weekend managed to rescue 16 koalas from fire-hit areas around Port Macquarie.
James Tremain from the NSW Nature Conservation Council told media Port Macquarie recently had one of the healthiest koala populations in the state with up to 600 animals in the colony there.
But Mr Tremain said if things continued at the current rate, koalas would be extinct by 2050.
Koala rescuers learning about bushfires
Mr Tremain referred to existing pressure on koala populations including habitat destruction from farming and housing expansion as well as current bushfires.
Further north, Friends of the Koala President Ros Irwin said rescuers had already been busy saving koalas hit by cars or attacked by dogs as this was the peak season for koalas to be on the move.
Ms Irwin said in a media release Monday morning Friends of the Koala had been unprepared for bushfires but that was changing.
She said members were working with a wide range of people including the RFS, National Parks & Wildlife, Forestry and other local wildlife organisations to acquire fire awareness training in order to rescue koalas on firegrounds.
Advocate calls for more pressure on premier over koala protection
Some people had been taking in water and branches of eucalypts for koalas but Ms Irwin advised against such actions until the RFS has given the all-clear.
‘We know that many people understandably are really wanting to do something for wildlife – as are we – but given the catastrophic fires that have burnt out nearly 150,000 hectares of forests, National Parks and bush in our area, even before the recent fires in the Lismore LGA, in our opinion it is too dangerous now to go onto any of the firegrounds,’ Ms Irwin said.
The koala advocate said providing water was important but placing branches on the ground wasn’t particularly helpful as koalas didn’t eat on the ground and were so selective as to which individual leaf they chose.
‘All koalas being rescued, regardless of whether as a result of the fires, are dehydrated at the least,’ said Ms Irwin.
‘We have been working with Forestry, who are having blinky drinkers or watering stations produced, to get some for this area,’ she said.
Sue James is a member of both Friends of the Koala and the North East Forest Alliance and says koala advocates have managed to work out where koalas are in fire-affected areas by mapping their scats.
She told Bay FM Eco Futures host Julie Beesley last week the most useful thing people could do to help koalas was ‘follow up on the state koala inquiry’ by contacting the premier’s office directly.