The 13 koalas released back into the Blue Mountains of Australia are part of the most genetically diverse koala population in the country
The Down Under is here to lift your spirits up!
In December 2019, wildlife conservation non-profit Science for Wildlife, with the support of San Diego Zoo Global, rescued numerous koalas from Australia’s devastating bushfires, by pulling the marsupials from their habitat in the country’s Blue Mountains before the flames engulfed the eucalyptus trees the koalas called home.
Since this rescue, the koalas have been living out of harm’s way at the Taronga Zoo, waiting for their home to be inhabitable once again.
That day finally came this month! Science for Wildlife recently released 13 koalas back into the Blue Mountains, where fires have ceased and it is safe for the animals to live again.
A mother koala and her joey were among the first to venture back into the Blue Mountains and were quick to climb a nearby tree and get on with living in the wild when they were released for their transportation crate.
The sight of seeing these animals back in their natural habitat had a profound effect on the koalas’ rescuers.
“While they have coped well in care we are delighted to finally send our koalas home” Dr. Kellie Leigh, executive director of Science for Wildlife, who led the rescue and the release, said in a statement. “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. We will be radio-tracking them and keeping a close eye on them to make sure that they settle in ok.”
Science for Wildlife and San Diego Zoo Global are dedicated to returning the Blue Mountain World Heritage Region to its koala-filled glory, especially since the area is home to the most genetically diverse population of koalas in Australia — conserving these koalas will help protect the future of the species as a whole.
San Diego Zoo Global is raising funds for Science for Wildlife’s Blue Mountains Koala Project, which is dedicated to rescuing and protecting this important group of marsupials.
“Successful conservation work to save species requires working collaboratively in regions all over the world, supporting partners in a variety of ways,” Paul Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global, said. “This is a crucial time for Australian wildlife and we are proud that our long-standing relationship made it possible for us to save these koalas.”
According to Science for Wildlife, there is plenty of work ahead since the recent bushfires tore through about 80% of the World Heritage Region.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to assess what is left of koalas in this region and plan for population recovery,” said Jen Tobey, a population sustainability researcher at San Diego Zoo Global, said. “We are dedicated to continuing to support this critical work to conserve a significant koala population.”
For now, this dedication means keeping an eye on the koalas that were released, which are equipped with tracking devices, and seeing what the animals can show conservationists about the future.
“The radio-tracking devices that enabled us to find the koalas quickly and move them from in front of the fire will now allow us to follow them and find out more about how koalas use the landscape after a fire, including where else we might find pockets of surviving koalas,” said Dr. Leigh. “That will help us to plan a future for koalas under climate change, where we expect more frequent and intense fires.”