planting a future for koalas, one tree at a time
Koalas are ambassadors of Australian wildlife. When we protect them, we give countless other animals the chance to thrive.
The koala, despite being a national and international icon, is in crisis. Excessive land-clearing is destroying forest habitat and forcing koalas to live in urban areas. Deadly encounters with cars, dogs and disease threaten their day-to-day survival.
To protect koalas and ensure they have a place in our future, we need an integrated solution. Our Northern Rivers project in New South Wales includes a combination of rescue, rehabilitation, community engagement, landscape conservation, and policy work. Our goal is to improve the long-term welfare and conservation of koalas by ensuring rescued koalas and their future generations have a secure habitat to thrive.
Rescue & Rehabilitate
IFAW improves welfare outcomes and release rates by building veterinary capacity. Friends of the Koala, our partner on the ground in Lismore, has witnessed a dramatic increase in koalas coming into care over the past few years with around 400 admitted annually. So we sponsor a vet nurse at its Triage, Treatment and Pathology Clinic to ensure koalas receive immediate specialist on-site treatment and care.
Every individual is vital to the survival of local populations and to the species as a whole. With so many koalas being rescued, treated, and rehabilitated, it is critical that there is a safe and secure habitat to release them into, to enhance chances of survival.
Once injured koalas have undergone intensive rehabilitation, they need to be "soft-released" into safe enclosed areas where they can learn to climb and regain muscle strength before their eventual return to the wild. That's why we've established two dedicated soft release sites, so that individual animals have greater chances of successfully thriving in the wild.
With our partner Bangalow Koalas, we are working with the local community and private landowners to restore a wildlife corridor in the region. The corridor connects fragmented habitat to provide refuge and safe passage for koalas and other animals through the landscape. These new tree corridors will also provide homes and food sources to birds, squirrel gliders, possums, bats and insects.
Our work to secure habitat doesn't stop there. We aim to influence policy at a local, state, national, and international level to enhance koala protection and conserve critical habitat and wildlife corridors. This includes ensuring the development of local Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (CKPoMs), lobbying for strengthened state land-clearing laws, increasing protected areas including the Great Koala National Park and calling for a National Koala Recovery Plan.
Land-clearing is the number one cause of stress in koalas. Our scientific work looks at physiological stress levels in wild koalas in response to the impacts of land clearance, bushfires, vehicle collision, dog attacks, and disease. For the first time, we've been able to put a quantitative figure on the exact stress levels generated by exposure to different stressors of koalas. This is important as it demonstrates how long-term stress caused by environmental trauma can lead to significant physical and psychological changes in koalas, proving that koalas living in areas of past or ongoing habitat alteration will be most vulnerable to extinction.
Rescuing dogs to save koalas – how one species can help another.
A dog's ability to smell is up to 10,000 times better than humans. They can smell what we can't see. This skill is highly attractive when it comes to spotting elusive koalas, who spend most of their time camouflaged in the treetops. But to protect them we need to find them. We teamed up with the University of the Sunshine Coast to rescue and train a koala detection dog named Bear. Bear’s high energy made him the perfect candidate for a detection dog and he passed his tests with flying colours. Bear is now locating live koalas in the wild and is part of a team conducting critical on-ground research and monitoring.