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Threatened Koalas Rescued From Blue Mountains Bushfires

A group of koalas has been rescued from the path of out-of-control bushfires in the NSW Blue Mountains.

A total of 12 koalas, including four joeys, were captured in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park by a joint team from the conservation group Science for Wildlife and staff from the Taronga Wildlife Hospital.

The park is currently closed to the public due to an ongoing fire risk, but the teams were given a two-day window, when it was deemed safe enough, to find and catch any koalas they could.

Image: Taronga Conservation Society.

Science for Wildlife Director Dr. Kellie Leigh said three of the five areas in NSW which support koala populations are currently threatened by bushfires.

"We wish could have saved more but we’re glad we could rescue this group," Leigh said.

The koalas were later transferred to Taronga Wildlife Hospital, where they will be kept until the fire has passed.

Image: Taronga Conservation Society.

Taronga Conservation Society's Director of Welfare Nick Boyle said the risk of more fire danger put the koalas in harm's way.

“This week’s forecast has multiple days above 40 degrees in western Sydney with gusty and changeable winds, so it was important that we rescued these animals from impending danger,” Boyle said.

Koalas in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area are the most genetically diverse in Australia, making them vital to conservation efforts.

These koalas are also one of the only two populations in NSW which are chlamydia free.

Image: Taronga Conservation Society.

"We are committed to caring for these important koalas to ensure some of this vital genetic diversity from the Blue Mountains can be preserved and that the future of this iconic species is secured," Boyle said.

Koala numbers are in decline and have been for a number of years, with habitat loss, car accidents, and disease among the largest threats to the population.

Image: Taronga Conservation Society.

Earlier this month a parliamentary inquiry was announced into koala populations and habitats in NSW.

The hearing is expected to receive evidence that more than 2000 koalas may have died on the state's north coast in the recent fires.

National

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“Koalas are a threatened species, vulnerable to extinction across most of their range in Australia," Dr. Leigh said.

"Once a thriving 3-4 million community, koala numbers are now as low as 300,000. Saving each and every koala population is vital to the species' survival."

Contact the author: egreen@networkten.com.au