Princess’s recent fall from a tree and admission to the Port Stephens Koala Hospital has emphasised to the Myall Koala and Environment Group (MKEG) the extreme vulnerability of our local endangered koala population.
The Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens koala population was declared endangered by the NSW Scientific Committee in 1999, one of only two in NSW.
MKEG has been recording koala sighting statistics on the Myall Coast since 1989. In recent years the number of koala sightings reported to us has been gradually declining from the highs of 700+ in 2008 to less than 10 in the last year.
Dog attacks, vehicle strikes and disease have had some impact on the koalas, by far the major cause of decline has been loss of habitat.
Lack of effective Council and State Government protection for trees and wildlife corridors, as well as the ever-increasing pressure for development have resulted in the removal of at least 20% of the trees in Hawks Nest in the last 20 years.
One way to return koalas to the urban areas is by protecting and enhancing the wildlife movement corridors that are under threat to the north (Myall Lakes National Park), northwest (Monkey Jacket) and southwest (Pindimar, Bundabah and Fame Cove).
The removal of key vegetation within the towns of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens must be stopped.
Although koala numbers are down in the townships, MKEG knows from small surveys that they commissioned that there are koalas in the forested areas around Hawks Nest on private land and in the National Park.
Koalas are notoriously difficult to spot and in isolated areas, there is nobody to spot them for recording.
Broadscale drone surveys are needed to accurately determine how many koalas there are on the northern shores of Port Stephens and where they are predominantly active.
With this data, Council, NPWS and MKEG can develop strategies to protect and enhance koala habitat and particularly movement corridors.
The Federal Government declared NSW koalas endangered in February and the NSW Government allocated $193 million to koala conservation. More funding is needed for drone surveys now, so that the conservation strategies can be implemented before the local koalas become extinct.