Koala conservation, fire, and the Murrah Flora Reserves’ future

CONSERVING KOALA HABITAT: The koala spotted by photographer and documentary maker David Gallan in the Murrah Flora Reserves in August 2016 at Wapengo, several days after an initial sighting. Photo: David Gallan
CONSERVING KOALA HABITAT: The koala spotted by photographer and documentary maker David Gallan in the Murrah Flora Reserves in August 2016 at Wapengo, several days after an initial sighting. Photo: David Gallan

Conservation projects to protect Far South Coast koalas are quickly building momentum.

“Research indicates that up to 60 koalas live in these reserves and they are the only known population surviving in the coastal forests between Sydney and the Victorian border,” NPWS South Coast Director Kane Weeks said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is hosting two sessions of what they describe as “open houses”, in January for locals and visitors to learn more about the recently created Murrah Flora Reserves.

“Koala conservation projects continue and staff are happy to chat about what we’ve learnt so far and what out next steps are in terms of creating more ‘koala-friendly’ habitat,” Mr Weeks said.

“Managing fire in the landscape and specifically re-introducing cultural burning into the reserves will also be a focus of discussion at these sessions.

“The future management of these reserves is presented in our draft working plan and we are encouraging people to have their say before the plan is finalised.”

Local photographer and documentary maker David Gallan captured an image of a Koala at Wapengo in the Murrah Flora Reserves in August 2016.

After a previous sighting by an Office of Environment and Heritage contractor, Mr Gallan heard the “guttural bellowing” of a koala call before discovering it high in a tree.

“It was good to see, it looked really healthy,” he said.

“Unfortunately I didn’t have a tripod and I wanted to capture some video, so I went home and by the time I got back it had climbed even higher into the tree.”

He placed a motion activated camera at the base of the tree, and returned the following day.

It had recorded the koala leaving the tree, and finding again would prove difficult.

“I spent three hours looking the next day, and I couldn’t find it,” he said.

“Over the next six months I heard a koala call three out of the four occasions I went back.”

His documentary Understorey covered the history of dedicated conservationists campaigning to save south east native forests from the export woodchip industry, and contained koala footage.

He said capturing a clear image of a koala high up a tree involves an element of “luck”, and a long lens.

“I know people are excited about the koalas presence, and really want to see one in the wild,” he said.

“They realise how under pressure the local population are, and how important they are in the Far South Coast.

“I think it’s a good thing the reserve was created, but it took a long time. I drive through a lot of regenerating forests, but I’ve only heard koalas in older forest, which just goes to show.”

The free sessions will be held at the Tanja Hall on Saturday, January 13 from 10am to 1pm, and The Crossing Land Education Centre in Bermagui on Wednesday, January 17 at the same time.

They provide an opportunity for people to discuss the draft working plan for the reserves, and local koala conservation projects, Mr Weeks said.

“There is no need to register, just drop into one of the sessions for a chat or to pick up some more info about the reserves,” he said.

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