Impact of Bushfires on Koalas

  • YEAR: 2006
  • STATE: New South Wales
  • FOCUS AREAS: Saving Species/SDG 15: Life on Land

Study to determine the impact of bushfire and clearing on koalas. Initial focus of the project was to map movement patterns and home ranges of Port Stephens koala populations as they recolonised after bushfires, followed by the study of the koalas use of burnt and unburnt bush, the selection of vegetation types and their ability to recolonise after bushfires.

FNPW support

This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.

Project overview

This project aims to provide a set of unequivocal answers on what is the impact of a bushfire, then a sequence of bushfires, on a population of koalas, and how long the population will take to recover, and what additional matters could impact the koala population recovery.




FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.

Koala in Tree - Donate Australian Wildlife - FNPW - Wildlife Donation Australia - FNPW


The project was completed in 2006.

A Baby Koala Cling To It's Mother's Back - Australia Parks and Wildlife - FNPW


National Parks & Wildlife Services (NPWS) NSW is the lead organisation for this project.

This project was supported through the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage.

Latest news on this project.

Project Report 2006

1. Koalas are killed by direct fire, and many koalas are injured as they climb burning trees. When these koalas are taken into care, the argument had been that this was a waste of time, even if the koala recovered.We tested that view by comparing a set of rehabilitated and released koalas with a wild population in the adjacent unburnt bush. The results were unequivocal. The rehabilitated koalas both survived and breed as well as the wild population.Conclusion: Koala care, even for long stretches of up to 9 months, is a justified investment by koala care groups. This is especially important in areas, such as in NSW where koalas are a threatened species.

2. The long-term potential of the population to survive. Fires have a major impact on populations of koalas, but there are other factors that also adversely impact on the populations at the same time. Our radiotracking of a population of 55 koalas over three years revealed the profound effect of predatory dogs. We modelled the population to determine the relative impact of both these threatening processes to the population. Both contribute to the decline of the population, and the long-term survival of the population will depend upon managing both threats.

3. Return of koalas to burnt forest. We studied the trees used by koalas and found that they return within months of the fire and can survive and breed in burnt forest. This means that a population can survive even severe fires if there is nearby unburnt forest that can provide a source of immigrants.

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