Koalas are important to the Australian environment and the ecosystem because their scat deposits feed the forest floor that help the woodlands grow and regenerate, leading to an increase in biodiversity. Droppings are also known to be a source of food for small mammals and insects. Their fur is also highly insulating and has been known to be used by birds for their nests.
Koalas are beloved in Australia and around the world. They are an ambassador species for other native wildlife as they help people learn about the issues impacting animals and their homes. By protecting koalas and their habitat, the habitat of hundreds of other plants and animals is also protected.
Vulnerable to extinction in Queensland, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory under the Australian national environmental law/EPBC (Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation) Act 1999 and listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
Where do koalas live?
Eastern and southeastern Australia, in the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia
Mainly eucalyptus tree forests. They can be found in temperate, sub-tropical, tropical, woodland and semi-arid forests where their preferred eucalyptus species and shelter trees are abundant.
Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to koalas. Land clearing, deforestation, and urbanization are destroying vital eucalyptus tree forests that provide koalas with homes and food. As a result, koalas become vulnerable to predation by dogs and vehicle strikes, with growing evidence showing that increased stress from these factors is impacting their long-term health and wellbeing and ultimately leads to disease. In recent years, the effect of climate change, including unprecedented droughts and bushfires, has driven some local koala populations in New South Wales to near extinction.
How many koalas are left?
This is not an easy question to answer and one which would require a colossal effort by scientists. This is because koalas are so difficult to spot in the wild and are distributed across such large areas and there is no consistent mapping or monitoring method.
What we do know is that there used to be millions of koalas in Australia but now you are lucky to see one in the wild. Their numbers are plummeting in Queensland and New South Wales, and while they are considered more abundant in Victoria and South Australia they face a gamut of welfare threats. Koalas are in trouble and need all the help they can get.
How did the 2019/20 bushfires impact koalas?
An estimated 6,382 koalas were killed across New South Wales in the 2019/20 bushfire season. This number is a conservative estimate and represents 15% of the New South Wales koala population. Up to two-thirds of the population has been lost due to drought, bushfires and man-made causes over the last twenty years.
With the progressive impacts of ongoing climate change and high-frequency fires, there is an immediate and significant risk of extinction presenting serious challenges for the longer-term survival of koalas in the forests and woodlands of NSW.
IFAW works with partners, community members, and government officials to build a secure future for koalas in Australia. When bushfires strike, our team deploys to areas in need to rescue impacted wildlife. Trained by the University of the Sunshine Coast’s (USC) Detection Dogs for Conservation team, our USC x IFAW koala detection dog – Bear – is able to locate live koalas through the scent of their fur. He is an integral part of our rescue team and found more than 100 injured koalas during the devastating 2019/2020 bushfire season. IFAW and USC are currently conducting vital research into the impact of fires on koalas to assess their health and resilience and to help at-risk populations survive into the future.
In New South Wales, we are working with our partner Friends of the Koala to provide expert veterinary care to the hundreds of injured, sick and orphaned koalas that come into their care every year. To ensure the safe release of rescued koalas after their rehabilitation, IFAW has also established two dedicated soft release sites where koalas can learn how to climb and rebuild muscle strength. And we’re working with our partner Bangalow Koalas, private landholders, and community members to restore a vital koala wildlife corridor to provide koalas with a safe passage between fragmented habitats.
Following the disastrous 2019-2020 bushfire season, IFAW commissioned research into the impact on koala populations in New South Wales (NSW). The research revealed that nearly 15% of NSW’s entire koala population was lost in the fires, with nearly 5.3 million hectares of land burned. Over three generations, 62% of the population is estimated to have perished due to drought, bushfires, and man-made causes. For this reason, we embarked on a policy push, calling on our peers, supporters, and the state and federal government to ‘uplist’ the status of koalas from Vulnerable to Endangered.
How can you help koalas?
Wondering how you can protect the remaining koalas? Take action right now by making a tax-deductible donation to IFAW. Your donation will help IFAW rescue and protect animals around the world.
Photos and Videos
Wildlife Rescue - Australia
Australia has one of the highest mammal extinction rates in the worldSee project
Koala Protection: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release, and Secure - Australia, New South Wales
Planting a future for koalas, one tree at a timeSee project
Rescuing animals during bushfires - Australia
For over 30 years we’ve been on the ground helping animals affected by bushfiresSee project
hundreds of koalas thought to be injured or dead by bulldozing incident at blue gum plantation in south west VictoriaRead more
our work protecting animals in AustraliaRead more
ifaw supports wildlife rehabilitators and partners in Australia as they overcome COVID-19 challengesread more
ifaw team deployed to Australia bushfiresRead more