A new project aims to ‘rewild’ captive koalas by gently releasing them into larger sanctuaries.
The plan is to house the endangered marsupials at a breeding site near a NSW national park before releasing them into a safe, 1500-hectare wild sanctuary in the state’s north.
The goal is to equip the animals with the necessary skills to flourish in a wild environment – called ‘wild translocation’.
Conservation groups WildArk and Aussie Ark aim to launch the project in 2023 once facilities are built, predators and weeds are removed and protective fencing is in place.
The organisations are partnering with ice-cream brands Connoisseur and NUII to realise the project.
Status downgraded from vulnerable to endangered
The federal government in February downgraded the conservation status of koalas from vulnerable to endangered, as recommended by advisory body the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
In May, the NSW government also listed koalas as endangered following a final determination by the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which noted habitat loss had significantly affected lessened populations.
The project will also monitor and manage the small number of wild koalas at Mongo Valley, carrying out surveys and rehabilitating the habitat.
“We all want to save koalas from becoming extinct in the wild but that battle is being lost, so a model of captive to wild is a critical step to being able to replenish wild populations and keep this species in the wild,” Aussie Ark president Tim Faulkner said.
WildArk general manager Kirstin Scholtz said the larger sanctuary site, the Mongo Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Rivers region, was ideal for the tree-dwelling mammal “so it has been sad not to see many koalas in the wild here”.