Local Koalas in Recent Times
Koalas are now very rare in the Eurobodalla.
We have a set of scats waiting to be analysed by near-infrared spectrometer, which might confirm a sighting in Bodalla State Forest, close to the highway, reported in October 2021. We have a report from a private landholder who used to have koalas on his property adjacent to Bodalla State Forest before the January 2020 wildfire, that in March 2022 he heard koalas at night.
Previously, within the Shire’s borders, only one recorded sighting had occurred since 2013. That was also in Bodalla State Forest, straight after the 2020 New Year fire. The fate of that animal is unknown, one danger being that it might not have survived the pre-epicormic famine period. There are five records of koalas in Bodalla State Forest between 2002 and 2009.
The November 2013 sighting was in Nerrigundah village. A roar was also recorded and fresh scats found at Wamban Creek (Deua National Park) in the 2012-2013 Summer. Prior to that, there were two sightings near Nerrigundah in 2009.
Just north of the Eurobodalla, at East Lynne, a koala was seen beside the highway during the December 2019 Currowan fire, and koalas were heard in the precinct in May 2020. There are three records in the Benandarah and Durras areas between 2002 and 2009.
Two Centuries of Koalas
The Pilot Study extract below plus other research, suggest local koala numbers continually declined from the time of European colonisation, with certain periods experiencing sharper drops. The extension of the NSW colonial boundary, permitting post-squatter settlement and more intensive agriculture from the 1860’s, is a case in point. The researcher Hammond, studying the area between Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay, concluded the reason for the low number of modern sightings on the south coast is because the small patches of more nutritious alluvial lowlands scattered amongst the widespread less nutritious forest, have been cleared over time.
The mid-20th Century appears to have been the last dramatic turning point for remnant Eurobodalla koalas in what we might term “modern” times.
Koalas were reportedly still readily visible as resident groups in the 1940’s around Dignam’s Creek, and during the 1950’s in Nerrigundah and Pedro’s Swamp, but this is no longer the case.
The last koalas close to Moruya were reportedly wiped out at Telegraph Road by the 1968 fire. That fire appears to have impacted catastrophically on the Wamban population also (once thought to be the last remaining Eurobodalla resident group after the 1952 fire). Wildlife Atlas records display a cluster of sightings around Wamban circa 1968, with only sparse records after that.
A Cadgee farmer reported seeing koalas near her property until 1983, when she said a forestry incendiary burn got out of control.
“Although records are sparse, koalas appear to have been abundant in and near the Eurobodalla Shire until the mid-19th Century (Townsend, 1849) ; then numbers seemingly declined Shire-wide but still persisted strongly in certain Eurobodalla locations until the end of that
Century (Warry, 2004) . The 19th Century context included the contraction of the traditional Aboriginal population, a shift from colonial pastoral activity to smaller cleared farm holdings, hunting for
skins, a possible koala chlamydia epidemic, the “Federation drought”, timber-getting and gold mining (ngh heritage/DECCW, 2010) . Nevertheless koalas appear to have persisted as resident groups in
isolated pockets into the second half of the 20th Century including close to towns (Lawler et al, perscomms) , a period of increasing urban/peri-urban development, road transport and more mechanical
forestry techniques. Koala numbers appear to have continued to decline towards possible functional extinction (ie only scattered records of apparently dispersing animals) by about the Year 2000 (NSW
Wildlife Atlas) . Loss of habitat is considered the greatest contributor to the 20th Century decline (National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy, 2009) .”
Statement taken from-EUROBODALLA KOALA RECOVERY STRATEGY – 2014 to 2026. The Coastwatchers Association Inc. www.coastwatchers.org.au
“I know the wild habitat is still there if everyone collaborates to preserve connectivity.”KJ