Wingecarribee Shire Council is encouraging residents to report koala sightings and activity to a new ‘Koala Hotline’ to help build a more detailed picture of their population in the Southern Highlands.
The initiative follows on from a successful joint study Council conducted along with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in May.
The initial survey included field studies to gauge the size of the koala population in the Southern Highlands, as well as key habitats and feed trees.
Following the survey, a community information session was held at Colo Vale Village Hall, attracting more than 50 residents interested in helping with the next stages of the project.
Environmental Projects Officer Joe Stammers said the koala study had engaged many residents who wanted to know how they could help.
“Koalas engage the community like no other animal. Residents of the Wingecarribee have already shown a strong interest in the presence of these animals in their neighbourhoods, and we want to harness that enthusiasm,” he said.
As well as the Koala Hotline, several other initiatives have been launched which encourage community participation.
A new program called ‘Habitat for Wildlife’ has been launched, inviting residents to incorporate wildlife friendly elements into their gardens.
Habitat for Wildlife is free to join, and participants will receive a sign for their fence as well as access to a range of information and support materials.
“The Southern Highlands is home to over 370 native mammal, reptile and bird species, making it one of the most diverse regions in Australia – only Kakadu has more,” Mr Stammers said. “We hope this initiative will go some way to helping all our native wildlife, particularly ones that are threatened or endangered.”
The OEH is continuing to assist the koala project through its Saving Our Species (SOS) threatened species program, and will provide 10 GPS tracking collars.
Council has also committed to providing funding for the next stages of the koala project through its Environment Levy.
Any interested residents and local businesses are invited to sponsor this project by purchasing a tracking collar.
“The tracking collars will be useful to determine the full range of koala movements in our Shire,” Mr Stammers said.
“Along with the sightings and activity reported through the hotline, this will help us to build a more complete picture of our local koala population.” Residents can report koala sightings or activities (scats, scratchings, bellowing) by calling (02) 4868 0888 or via Council’s Facebook page.
Please report any injured koalas to WIRES on 4862 1788 or Wildlife South Coast on 0418 427 214.