Koalas are one of Australia’s favourite marsupials and Wollondilly Council officers have confirmed there is a thriving population in the shire.
Environmental officers scoured the bush land to find the furry creatures over four nights.
In partnership with the Office and Environment and Heritage, council’s officers and two wildlife ecologists conducted systematic surveys in Appin, Broughton Pass, Douglas Park, Wilton and Pheasants Nest.
The officers went out in the late afternoon to search the bush where koalas had been sighted previously.
Wollondilly Council set up the koala hotline last year and in the last 12 months there have been more than 20 koala sightings around the shire.
Environmental education officer Damion Stirling said the council wanted to get the data to back up the sightings.
“We were looking for scratching in the trees and scat then as night fell we put on the headlight touches and systematically walked through the bush searching for eye reflections,” he said.
“We found 12 koalas out of 58 sites we searched, which is a substantial number.
The team also found two other threatened fauna species including a squirrel glider and a masked owl in two locations.
Mr Stirling said the result was a strong indicator that there was a healthy, thriving population residing in the region.
“We knew there were koala’s out there but we really had no idea of how many and where they were located,” he said.
“We were surprised with how many we found and it shows the koala population is expanding.
“We now need to conduct a further investigation into where the koalas are moving and residing.”
Mr Stirling said all koalas sighted seemed to be in very healthy condition.
Males and females were found in a variety of different habitats, forest types and eucalyptus species with a range of ages from teenagers through to mature adults.
“It was amazing to see koalas in the wild, which is quite rare and it has inspired me to find out how the bush land corridors can be best preserved,” Mr Stirling said.
The council has applied for funding from the state government Saving Our Species program to identify which corridors the koalas use to move between habitat, to tag and GPS track the koalas for 12 months and to conduct health checks.
Mr Stirling said once the council knew where the koalas were moving then it could put in floppy top fencing along roads to channel the koalas into a safer crossing area.
Mr Stirling praised the proactive attitude of locals, especially in Appin, who reported koala sightings.
“People in Wilton and Douglas Park 10 years ago would have seen several koalas but now there are not as many but thankfully there are still koalas in the area,” Mr Stirling said.
Locals are encouraged to call the Wollondilly Koala Hotline on 4677 1100.