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Byron Shire
May 28, 2024

Protect koalas – don’t light fires

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Kajika the koala is one of the lucky few koalas who was rescued from bushfires and is recovering with Friends of the Koala. Photo supplied.

Take a moment to think about the impact of fires and drought on the wildlife. With drought and fires ravaging much of the country Tweed Shire Council have put out a special appeal for visitors and residents to be aware of the impact on local koala populations.

They are reminding everyone that most of the Tweed is still categorised as suffering from intense drought and so koala habitats remain extremely dry and are at high risk of bushfire. 

Peat wetlands drying out

December 2019: The freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are drying as water has stopped flowing in from the Pottsville Wetland. The wetland is now dry. Photo supplied.

While the forested wetlands on the Tweed coast floodplain, including the Pottsville Wetland, provide excellent koala habitat they are drying out as the drought continues. This means areas of peat soil, which are soils comprising of partially decayed and densely packed organic material, are also dry. Fire that start in peat soils burn with high intensity and are difficult to put out.

‘As well as the loss of koalas due to high intensity fire, it can also result in the loss of koala habitat due to collapse of trees, as the fire burns deep into the soil and destroys it,’ said Tweed Council’s bushland officer Tanya Fountain.

The Tweed coast floodplain supports two of the primary koala food trees – the Swamp Mahogany and the Forest Red Gum.

Devastating bushfires over the last few months have resulted in significant declines to many koala populations throughout NSW. 

‘Because of this, it is even more important to protect the Tweed’s koala populations,’ she said.

September 2011: Normally, the freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are full as water continually flows in from the Pottsville Wetland. This area provides important koala habitat. Photo supplied.

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Over the summer holiday period, Council rangers will continue to monitor key spots known for illegal camping that are at higher risk of fire. 

‘Bush fires are more likely to spread and cause damage on days when the weather is very hot, dry and windy. These are usually on very high to extreme fire days and the NSW RFS may declare a total fire ban, meaning no fire may be lit in the open and all fire permits are suspended,’ Ms Fountain said. 

Keep a watch out for koalas this summer, particularly in our known koala habitat reserves at Cudgen Nature Reserve, Koala Beach bushland estate, Pottsville Environment Park and Pottsville Wetland.

How to help

Here’s some things you can do to help protect the Tweed’s koalas:

1. Report a fire immediately by calling triple zero (000). The quicker the Rural Fire Service can respond, the better chance they have at being able to contain the fire.

2. Report any suspicious behaviour or suspected arson to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Bush fire arson is dangerous. It can destroy lives, properties and have long-term effects on the environment, including koalas.

3. Report any sick, injured or orphaned koalas to Friends of Koala 24-hour hotline on (02) 6622 1233 or find out more information or report koala sightings at www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/koalas 

One of the organisations in Council’s annual Mayoral Christmas Appeal (running until the end of January 2020) is Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, who rescue and rehabilitate local wildlife. 

Online donations can be made to Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers at http://tvwc.org.au

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