As Australia slowly tries to recover in the aftermath of deadly bushfires, there’s some good news in that a number of rescued koalas have been released back into the wild.
During the catastrophic bushfires, rescuers put their lives at risk to try and save koalas.
Now those efforts have been rewarded as the first batch of rescued koalas have been released into Kanangra-Boyd National Park in the Blue Mountains.
Twelve plus one
The animals had been rehabilitated at the Taronga Zoo.
An initial twelve adults were released, with an additional baby koala – a joey, adding to the numbers.
“While they have coped well in care we are delighted to finally send our koalas home,” said Dr. Kellie Leigh, executive director of Science for Wildlife.
“We have been busy assessing the burnt area that we rescued them from, to establish when the conditions have improved enough that the trees can support them again. The recent rains have helped and there is now plenty of new growth for them to eat, so the time is right,” Dr Leigh added.
The non-profit Science for Wildlife is working on the project with the San Diego Zoo Global.
During the fires, many of the stricken koalas were found by using the radio-tracking devices that had already been installed.
They have again been fitted with the trackers so that scientists can study their movement back in the wild.
It’s hoped that these koalas may also be able to discover groups of surviving koalas.
How it all started – Australia’s Black Summer
In what has been called the Black Summer, fires raged across most parts of Australia from June 2019 right through to March 2020.
An estimated 186 000 square kilometers were burnt and nearly 6000 building were destroyed. At least 34 people were killed and an estimated one billion animals lost their lives.
The state of New South Wales on the east coast was particularly badly hit. It’s widely believed that as many as 10 000 koalas died.
That is nearly a third of the koala numbers in the state – which was last estimated to be around 36 000. The entire Australian koala population is thought to be around 80 000.
And with 30% of their natural habitat destroyed by the fires, the koala is effectively now in danger of extinction in New South Wales.
“It’s brought forward a 2050 extinction projected timeline for most of the populations across the state by years,” said WWF conservation scientist, Dr Stuart Blanch.
This makes the news of the rescued koalas being returned to the wild especially heart-warming and important.
All images credit: Science For Wildlife