Wollondilly Koala Conservation Project

The Wollondilly Koala Conservation Project focusses on ensuring the protection and conservation of koalas in our Shire. 

Wollondilly Koala Hotline - Call 4677 1100 to report koala sightings in Wollondilly.

Report injured koalas and other wildlife to 24hr WIRES Injured Koala line 0466 318 688, Sydney Wildlife 9413 4300, Wildlife South Coast Rescue 0418 427 214

Wollondilly Shire Council’s ‘Koala Conservation Project’ has grown over the last two years with recent surveys proving there is a healthy colony of breeding koalas in the region. The population is continuous with the well known koalas of Campbelltown and is linked through a habitat corridor that runs through Appin to Wilton and down to Avon Dam and Bargo. The koalas north of Picton Road to Campbelltown are part of the only population in the State that is disease free.

Koala’s are an iconic part of Wollondilly’s natural history with the first recorded European sighting of a koala occurring near Bargo in 1798 by John Price, who wrote

“there is another animal that the natives call Cullawine, which much resembles the Sloths in America.” 

Wollondilly Shire Council is partnering with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), neighbouring Council’s, Wingecaribee and Campbelltown, other organisations such as the University of Sydney koala health hub, Conservation Volunteers Australia and community groups such as Wollondilly WIRES to undertake valuable work that will help to protect koala’s and their habitat and to inform future development planning and conservation management decisions.

Wollondilly WIRES: a volunteer run organisation and they provide an excellent service in looking after injured wildlife. One of the key threats to koalas in the Wollondilly is road strike along our major roads of Appin and Picton Roads and the Hume Hwy. Injured wildlife should be reported to Wollondilly WIRES on 4684 1656, 24hr injured koala line 0466 318 688. Sydney Wildlife 9413 4300.

Wollondilly Koala Hotline: The community are our eyes and ears across the shire and the sightings reported by the community have helped us gain a better understanding about where koalas live and what they eat. Please report koala sightings to the Wollondilly Koala Hotline 4677 1100.

Environmental Trust Grant: Community education and participation are an important element of the project as it was originally borne from community interest. Conservation Volunteers Australia, with Council’s support, were successful in receiving an Environmental Trust Grant to coordinate volunteer projects for koala tracking and habitat restoration. The Bargo River was identified as an important corridor linking the Southern Highlands and Appin koalas where Council have been coordinating monthly activity days.

If you are interested in volunteering visit the Conservation Volunteers Australia website or phone 02 4228 9246.

The Department of Planning and Environment have identified Wilton and Appin as priority growth areas for residential development and Council are working to ensure that future planning decisions incorporate the Sustainability Principles of Equity, Precaution, Regeneration, Engagement and Sharing as identified in Council’s Community Strategic Plan (CSP).

This project also achieves outcomes for the following Environment strategies identified in the CSP; EN1 Biodiversity Resilience, EN2 Growth Management, EN3 Development Assessment, EN4 Environmental Responsibility, EN7 Sustainable Living.

The koala habitat corridors in these areas are narrow and the survey work being undertaken by the Office of Environment and Heritage is critical to us understanding koala movements and the extent of their range and we are working to find a balanced outcome with priority conservation areas clearly defined. 

All confirmed sightings of koalas received through the Wollondilly Koala Hotline and found through field excursion/surveys with The Office of Environment and Heritage are entered into BioNet, the 'atlas' of NSW Wildlife and there are nearly 1,400 records currently in the system for Wollondilly alone.

wollondilly koala sightings jan 2018

  • 60 reported koala sightings across the Shire through the Wollondilly Koala Hotline since February 2015. 
  • 8 koalas sighted during a 1 week pilot study in April 2016. 
  • 21 koalas caught during GPS collar deployment with 15 collars fitted and koalas now being tracked in Appin, Wilton and Avon Dam.
  • 9 females found with back or pouch young.
  • 378 koala spotlighting surveys completed.
  • 64 koalas seen.
  • 1163 koala location records entered into Bionet.
  • 100 fine scale 20m x 20m vegetation plots surveyed across the Shire to map koala habitat.
  • Over 500 hours of volunteer time delivered in 2017 to restore koala habitat and undertake koala surveys including planting of 1500 local native plants.
  • Regular meetings held with the South Western Sydney Koala Management Group which includes: Wollondilly, Wingecarribee and Campbelltown Council’s, The Office of Environment and Heritage, Conservation Volunteers Australia, WIRES, University of Sydney Koala Hub, Greening Australia.

Throughout 2013 and 2014 Wollondilly Shire Council received numerous reports from the community of koala sightings in urban areas and on road sides in and around Appin. Council consequently set up the Wollondilly Koala Hotline in early 2015 and since then there have been over 60 confirmed sightings of koalas reported by the community around Appin and a further 20 across the shire.

As a result of these reports and with the guidance of Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), Council commissioned wildlife ecologists to undertake a pilot spotlighting survey to gather information to help us understand the local koala’s home range, what food trees they eat and what habitat they prefer. The survey work has enabled us to identify hot spots for koala road crossings, particularly on Picton and Appin Roads, in an effort to work with RMS in creating safer road crossings that protect koala habitat corridors.

The significance of the pilot study results were integral in the Wollondilly Koala Conservation Project successfully receiving a grant for $90,000 from the ‘Saving Our Species Fund’ (SOS). This project was one of the largest funded koala projects in the State for 2017 and was launched by the NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton in February 2017. The project has since received a further $101,000 of funding.

  • Implement a system for recording and responding to community reports and concerns about the presence of koalas in urban areas and on road sides. The community demand is increasing and we need a solution to manage it.
  • Build working relationships with other government and non-government bodies and organisations to better understand and manage koalas and their habitat within the Wollondilly Shire. It was identified that Council staff lacked skills and knowledge about koala’s so we linked to the organisation and projects that did. e.g. The Office of Environment and Heritage, Conservation Volunteers Australia, WIRES, Greening Australia, Local Land Services.
  • Map koala locations, preferred habitat, food sources and corridors. As the project has evolved it has been clear that there was a distinct lack of data about koala’s in the region.
  • Educate and engage the community about the Wollondilly Koala Conservation Project and provide volunteer opportunities to participate in koala surveys and habitat restoration. The community expressed a genuine interest and concern about protecting koalas within the Shire and so we are providing practical ways for them to be involved.
  • Protect koala habitat and corridor linkages.

Through this project we hope to:

  1. Expand Koala surveys and GPS collaring across the shire.
  2. Expand fine scale vegetation mapping of koala habitat across the shire.
  3. Koala road crossing hot spots installed with wildlife protective fencing and Koala friendly, culvert crossings established.
  4. Develop a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for the Wollondilly Shire.

Systematic Pilot Spotlighting Survey: A significant number of koala sightings were reported by the community which triggered Council and OEH, to engage Wildlife Ecologists to undertake a Systematic Pilot Spotlighting Survey, costing $5,000.
We targeted the areas where the highest concentration of reported sightings occurred, linking habitat corridors. In April 2016 surveys were undertaken around Appin, Douglas Park and Wilton. The ecologists detected the presence of koalas on 22% of the 58 sites surveyed which indicated that we had a healthy breeding colony in the region. Estimates are that there could be upwards of 2,500 koalas in appropriate habitat across the Shire.
‘Saving our Species’ Grant - value $90,000: The results of the survey identified Wollondilly Shire as a location for a healthy, high density population of breeding koalas and consequently in early 2017 our partnership with OEH was successful in receiving a grant of $90,000 from the Saving Our Species fund to expand on the survey work. The project was the second highest funded koala project in the State and in April 2017 eight koala’s in Appin, Wilton and Avon Dam were fitted with GPS tracking collars and will be tracked for the next 12 months.
The team actually found 12 koalas over the 5 day period; 7 in Appin, 3 in Wilton and 2 at Avon dam. In Appin there was a mother with a suckling joey and a juvenile female and male that couldn't be collared for ethics reasons. Fine scale koala habitat mapping has also been undertaken so we can better protect their corridors.

As a response to community concern and reports about koalas, Council set up the Wollondilly Koala Hotline in February 2015. All sightings are confirmed by Council staff and the data is entered into ‘BioNet’, the website for the Atlas of NSW Wildlife. As of November 2017 we have had 80 reported koala sightings across the Shire in a variety of locations including Appin, Bargo, Silverdale/Bents Basin, Thirlmere and Oakdale.

Koala hotline Flyer 2018