While images of burned koalas graced headlines across the world due to the unprecedented bushfire emergency, it seems one, while small, population managed to avoid the devastation.
A mother, with a possible burn injury on one paw and and suffering from what appeared to be glaucoma, and her joey spent 12 days alone in a stringybark tree on a private property near the Murrah forest, before leaving the tree over the weekend - creating optimism in researchers the pair will remain healthy.
"Very little of the area being used by koalas has been burnt," the state government's local Koala Recovery Coordinator Chris Allen said.
"On the whole it was only moderate, and not extremely severe fire that passed through. This is one of the few koala populations that has not had a severe fire pass through it, which makes it a very important population now.
"It's still not known how they've fared through the drought, so we will keep monitoring.
"Every koala is really precious at this stage. It's a real challenge," he said.
Mr Allen said firefighters worked hard to prevent the Badja Forest fire from entering sensitive areas of the Murrah Flora Reserve and Biamanga National Park.
Mr Allen said it is unknown why the mother had taken refuge in the tree for so long, and the marsupials may establish a home range nearby, or look further afield. He said samples of her faeces have been sent to Sydney University to test for chlamydia and koala retrovirus.
"She is feeding well, browsing and suckling her young, who is beginning to eat leaves in the tree, and eating supplementary food from branches left under the tree," Mr Allen said.
He said recently captured video of the pair indicates the joey is likely around 14-months-old, and two months beyond the usual age for weening off its mother's milk. There is also evidence of koala scats in areas burnt by the fire, which has brought "some form of optimism", Mr Allen said.
It is unknown why the local population, which sits at 50 individuals spanning 25,000 hectares, has remained relatively unchanged over the last few decades. Mr Allen said the number could be an "underestimate", but there hasn't been "any evidence of a shift in the numbers" since 2009.
The mother and joey are part of the last remaining known population of the marsupials on the Far South Coast. It's a population which Mr Allen said very little is actually known about, as its low-density nature makes collecting relevant data difficult task.
"It involves quite a bit of field work each year to stay in touch with the occupation rates," he said.
"I hesitate to say the population is stable, but the numbers are very small and persisting."
Environment minister Sussan Ley, who has access to the governments $50 million wildlife and habitat recovery package, will facilitate a roundtable with zoos, wildlife carers and koala researchers in Canberra this week. Meanwhile, Australia's Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Sally Box will host a Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel, which includes academics in the field of koala conservation.
"My focus will be on finding new opportunities for bringing communities together to support koala recovery," Ms Ley said.
The animal was once a common sight across the region, even around Bega, where at the time of the arrival of Europeans around 1829, Bega, home to the Djiringanj people, was covered in tall grass and populated with many emus, kangaroos and koalas.
Djiringanj elder Aunty Colleen Dixon said there are historical stories of miners around the Biamanga area eating koalas, and she said the numbers could have been considerably large.
"A lot of the koalas didn't exist there afterwards. They are lovely creatures, it's nice to see what everyone is doing after these fires to try to look after them."
A local newspaper article in 1879 describes the animals being shot for fun by colonialists in the Tanja area, south of where the known population is today. Described incorrectly as a "native bear", a "monkey", and even as a cousin of the South American sloth, the article, written by a local resident, paints a sad picture of past dealings with the animal.
The article describes how bullets would just "tickle" the animals, with one local describing how four 12 gauge bullets were needed to "to disturb a koala's balance".
"A gentleman pedestrian from Bega chanced to pass at the time, had a six inch 'Colt' revolver with him, and being shown another bear, at least 70 feet from the ground, managed to bring him down with the second bullet; economy of powder and good shooting combined," the Bega Standard reads.
"One of our people purposes stuffing a specimen of these aboriginal inhabitants of the forest for exhibition."
A letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1934, details how the koala had been common in the Bega district 50 years earlier, and had "practically vanished from all settled areas by 1892".
The letter, written by an S.A Hanscombe from Parramatta, says the animals were forced to be nomadic or "back into the wild, unsettled mountain country", due to the extensive clearing of land for commercial cattle grazing.
He describes the koala's disappearance as "rapid" and "tragic", so much so it garnered international interest.
"Some German scientists were busy in 1912-1914 in collecting any stray skeletons of the koala for scientific purposes in order to diagnose the disease that swept right down the coast of New South Wales and through Victoria about 1890 and killed many of the creatures," Mr Hanscombe said.
"At the time most skeletons found indicated certain growths on the skulls, but the (Second World) war apparently killed the investigation at that period."
The animals were also hunted across the district for their fur, which is waterproof, and used to make hats and gloves.
By as recently as 1986, the remaining population was in "sad decline", just six years after national parks had described their numbers as "encouraging". With the organisation's Philip Reid saying bushfires May have been a "big factor" in their decline.
While the koala is a decedent of the giant marsupial Diprotodon, which possibly lived until as recently as 40,000 years ago and it's closest living relative is the wombat, it evolved to climb trees, possibly to take advantage of a resource not being used by other animals.
Sightings of koalas have been made in recent years, with state government contractors running three surveys over the last decade, and sightings from Bermagui to Gillards Beach and Doctor George Mountain.
Last year, a joey was successfully bred in captivity at Potoroo Palace to a mother named Sapphire who was also born at the sanctuary.
The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there were between 43,000 and 80,000 koalas in the wild before this season's bushfires, with most of their habitat already lost.
The state government is currently holding an inquiry into koala populations and habitats, which last week heard from representatives protecting the vulnerable animal's populations throughout the bushfires.
World Wide Fund for Nature conservation scientist Dr Stuart Blanch told the inquiry as many as 10,000 koalas, or a third of the total NSW population, may have been lost to drought and bushfires.
Murrah resident for almost 30 years Robert Bertram is a supporter and advocate for sustainable forest management practices, and runs a website dedicated to promoting the restoration of biodiversity and forests for koalas living between the important catchments of Dignams Creek and Wapengo.
Before the fires there were deep concerns about species such as koalas, greater gliders and yellow bellied gliders. Now, more than ever, we need to protect the trees they live in.National Parks Association Far South Coast branch president David Gallan
Mr Bertram made a submission to the inquiry last year arguing the government's poor understanding of environmental science and reluctance to adapt its management to increase biodiversity and soil fertility are threats to koalas.
He said he is concerned drought-induced forest dieback is threatening the population's survival, and even a low intensity fire may reduce the quality of the habitat to a point where it can no longer support koalas.
Mr Bertram captured rare images of a mother koala with her joey in November last year at a watering station, and started a crowdfunding page to raise money to place more of these water stations south of the Murrah River, as similar stations are reported to have been placed by the government around Cuttagee.
Since the fires he said he hasn't seen any evidence of koala activity.
National Parks Association Far South Coast branch president David Gallan was part of the combined team organised by Mr Allen, tasked with searching previously documented koala sites for post-bushfire scat activity when they were contacted by the private landholders about the mother and her joey.
The team also included Bega Local Land Service's and traditional custodian Dan Morgan, National Parks and Wildlife Service's David McCreery and koala scat surveyors Mark Lems and Roger Park.
"It would appear that they [the koalas] had moved away from the fire in the Murrah Flora Reserve," Mr Gallan said.
"While assessment is ongoing about the precise impact of the mega-fires across our state, it is reasonable to assume tree dwelling species that were already vulnerable, would be badly affected by the intensity and scale of the fires.
"Before the fires there were deep concerns about species such as koalas, greater gliders and yellow bellied gliders. Now, more than ever, we need to protect the trees they live in.
"The NPA supports the stance of the [state] environment minister, who refuses to let the fires be an excuse for cattle grazing or logging in national parks."
Mr Gallan said firefighters from Bermagui, Cobargo, Tathra and Tanja, as well as local farmers had worked hard to protect areas with known koala populations, as well as other wildlife within the national park and flora reserve from the 300,000 hectare Badja Forest bushfire fire.
Firefighting crews from Queensland also supported national parks firefighters in containing the fire, protecting critical habitats.
Mr Gallan said the association "has been concerned for years at the loss of firefighting knowledge and expertise through continual restructures and loss of key NPWS staff".
He said the association is also advocating for the Murrah Flora Reserves to be absorbed into the neighbouring Biamanga National Park.
"NPA supports the aspirations of the traditional custodians, represented by the Biamanga board of management members, to have responsibility for managing this ecologically and culturally significant area in partnership with NPWS," he said.
Campaigners said in 2018 the state government's NSW Koala Strategy completely ignored the Far South Coast's koala population, with the region kept within the Saving our Species threatened species program.
The strategy aimed to aside more than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter as new koala reserves, and transfer 4000 hectares of native forest on the Mid North Coast to the national parks estate.
A further $20million from the NSW Environmental Trust will be used to "purchase land with prime koala habitat that can be permanently reserved as national parks".
Fixing priority road-kill hotspots across NSW, creating a network of koala and wildlife hospitals and a single wildlife rescue call number are also be part of the strategy.
"The government removed the brakes on deforestation on private land in 2016, and now plans to spend $20million to buy habitat at risk due to that decision. That's a questionable use of public money," NPA senior ecologist Oisn Sweeney said at the time.
"The best chance to recover koalas are large, well connected reserves that protect habitat and provide east-west links to deal with climate change.
"Small isolated patches are highly vulnerable to catastrophic events like fire and ignore the threat of climate change," he said.