Koalas in Kempsey

Koala and joey in gum tree

Koalas were once common in the Kempsey region, featuring in local Indigenous law and legend. The place name Yarrahapinni comes from ‘yarra’, the Dunghutti word for ‘koala’.

Our area has stunning natural beauty with diverse environments, from the rugged hinterland mountains to the fertile coastal plains, and represents a mixing zone for subtropical and temperate biota. As a result, our region supports a high biological diversity. A large proportion of our region’s koala habitat has been mapped as an ‘area of regional koala significance’ under the NSW Government’s Saving our Species  program.

Our region is home to at least four genetically different koala populations. Genetic diversity is critical to the survival of koalas, as populations show different levels of resistance to disease.

We all have a responsibility to ensure koalas survive into the future. This means maintaining koala habitat and reducing threats such as cars, dogs and the removal of native vegetation.

What we are doing

Our goal is to protect and increase the koala population in the region. The Kempsey Shire Council Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management lists actions to improve koalas’ status in the area, including:

  • protecting and increasing koala habitat
  • creating koala management areas at:
    • Eungai Rail - Stuarts Point - Grassy Head
    • South West Rocks
    • Dondingalong - Kundabung - Crescent Head
  • fostering habitat linkages
  • increasing knowledge of koalas
  • reducing threats to koalas
  • working with landowners to keep or plant more koala-friendly vegetation
  • undertaking koala sightings counts

What you can do

Habitat is key

Quality habitat is vital to koala conservation. The best thing we can do for koalas is provide them with large areas of consolidated, high-quality habitat away from the many threats to them and their habitat.

Koalas feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. The two or three tree species they prefer vary throughout their range. The following preferred food trees have been identified in the Kempsey Shire.

Primary food tree species
Tallowwood Eucalyptus microcorys
Forest Red Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis
Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta
Secondary/supplementary food tree species
Grey Gum Eucalyptus propinqua
White Stringybark Eucalyptus globoidea
Stringybark Eucalyptus tindaliae

Koala food trees are best planted:

  • near existing koala habitat to increase food resources
  • near watercourses like creeks, rivers or dams
  • between isolated remnants of koala habitat to connect the areas
  • close to fence lines

If you would like to plant koala food trees on your property, it is best to use plants grown from locally grown seed stock. Your local Macleay Landcare (www.macleaylandcare.org.au ) can help you source local seed stock.

Landholders with koala habitat can receive financial and other incentives for participating in conservation initiatives (see the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust ).

Other actions you can take

Most koala habitat in our region is on private land. As a landowner, you can play a critical role in helping increase and maintain koala population areas. People living near koala habitats in the Kempsey Shire can also help protect koala populations from further deterioration and increase koala numbers.

  • Report sightings or evidence of koalas through the I Spy Koala website or app
  • Retain koala habitat on your land. The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (email habitat@koalahospital.org.au) can assist with habitat enquiries
  • Manage your dogs - especially if you live near bushland or koala habitat - by:
    • keeping your dog inside or restrained at night
    • not allowing your dog to roam freely, especially at night
    • always walking your dog on a lead and reporting stray or roaming dogs to Council
    • confining or restraining your dog if you see a koala in your yard, which will give the koala a chance to move on
    • giving your dog its own play area, fenced off from the rest of the yard with koala exclusion fencing
  • Be aware of koalas and wildlife when driving, especially between dusk and dawn. Drive slowly and carefully at night. During the breeding season (August to February) koalas are particularly vulnerable, spending more time on the ground finding a mate. If you see wildlife on the road at night, slow down, sound your horn and dim your lights.
  • If you do hit an animal or see a sick or injured one, call:
  • If you require fencing on your property, install koala-friendly fences or make your existing fence koala-friendly. You can find information on koala-friendly fences at www.savethekoala.com 
  • Apply low intensity, mosaic pattern fuel reduction burns adjacent to koala habitat
  • When planting preferred koala food trees on your block, develop habitat corridors between populations

More information