Where are the koalas in Byron Shire?

Koalas have been recorded over much of the Shire from the coast to the hinterland.  Within the coastal belt significant koala habitat areas have been identified at Brunswick Heads, Tyagarah, Myocum, West Mullumbimby and West Byron.  In the hinterland, significant koala habitat has been identified in Bangalow, Federal, Goonengerry, Wilson Creek Huonbrook and Montecollum.

Find out more about koalas in Bangalow and the work that Bangalow Koalas is doing to help this iconic species. 

Koalas are one of Australia's most iconic animals, recognisable around the world. However, koala populations are under increasing pressure. Koala conservation programs are being undertaken on a national, state and local level. Find out more including their threats at Dept Planning, Infrastructure and Environment's website

Report a koala sighting

If you have seen a koala recently, please report the sighting to Friends of the Koala 

Alternatively, NSW Government I Spy Koala app is a quick and easy way for anyone to record koala sightings. 

For sick or injured koalas call the 24 hour Friends of the Koala rescue line 02 6622 1233

Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Planning Policy

A State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) is a legal instrument that affects how land is developed and how natural resources are used, managed and conserved across NSW.

From 1 March 2020 the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 commenced, replacing SEPP No 44 – Koala Habitat Protection.

It includes a new definition of ‘core koala habitat’, two maps and a revised ‘feed tree species’ list designated by region. As Byron Shire falls within the North Coast koala management area, there are now 42 listed feed tree species.

Accompanying the SEPP, guidelines are being developed to outline how the SEPP is delivered through:

  • Guiding Council’s on how to prepare Koala Plans of Management
  • Defining the criteria and requirements for development applications
  • Guiding Council’s on how to implement the Ministerial Direction 2.6 Koala Habitat Protection
  • Providing information to the community on the role of the SEPP.

The NSW Dept Planning Infrastructure and Environment's draft Guideline was on public exhibition until 30 March 2020.

Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management

Our adopted Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management(PDF, 11MB) 2016 (CKPoM ) provides a coordinated strategy that addresses all of the identified key threatening processes (habitat loss, road kills, dogs and fire) together with measures to stimulate koala movement within the Byron Coast planning area.

Under the new Koala Habitat Protection SEPP, our draft CKPoM was resubmitted in February 2020 to the Dept Planning Infrastructure and Environment, for their approval.

Some actions identified in the draft CKPoM are being implemented via our current projects and partner projects, including:

  • ‘Saving Our Species’ programs
  • Byron Habitat Corridors
  • ARC linkage Koala Project
  • NE Hinterland Regional Koala Conservation Project.

Byron Coast Koala Habitat Study

The Byron Coast Koala Habitat Study(PDF, 743KB)  was undertaken in 2012 and provides the scientific background used to inform the development of the KPOM. The habitat study includes analysis of:

  • historical records
  • assessment of current koala population distribution and size
  • analysis of preferred food trees
  • mapping of koala habitat
  • identification of important linkages between high activity areas
  • assessment of threatening processes
  • recommendations for the KPOM.

Our koala projects 

Koala projects aim to secure the koala in the wild in the Shire by: 

  • reducing critical threats to the species
  • ensuring adequate protection, management and restoration of koala habitat
  • maintaining healthy breeding populations of koalas throughout their current range. 

Byron Habitat Corridors 2017-20 funded by NSW Environmental Trust

The project focuses on rebuilding 10ha of eucalypt forest ecosystems for koalas in areas identified by the draft Byron Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management and the latest habitat restoration literature. 

Target areas for revegetation and regeneration works are existing patches of eucalypt forest, wetlands and creek lines to enhance and create vital koala habitat.  A strong focus of the project is inclusion of landowners who are keen to manage their land for long-term threatened species protection leading by example. 

Iconic Koala 2017-18 funded by the Environment Levy and NSW Government   

The project aims to address critical threats to the koala as identified in the KPOM such as:

  • reducing vehicle strikes,
  • identifying risk areas where high levels of domestic dog ownership and/or wild dogs coincide with or are adjacent to koala habitat
  • reviewing the Pest Animal Management Plan 
  • promoting better engagement with landholders and the broader community in koala conservation actions across the Shire

Partner koala projects

North Coast Koala Linkage Project 2017-20 funded by the Environment Levy and the Australian Research Council

This project is led by the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Southern Cross University in partnership with Friends of the Koala and local government areas in the Northern Rivers including Byron Shire Council.  The project seeks to develop a novel, integrated socio-ecological approach to connect landscapes and communities to recover threatened koala populations. 

Specific aims of this project are to:

  • spatially model koala habitat occupancy and, where possible, changes in occupancy in the Northern Rivers area including Byron Shire
  • assess the location-specific community sentiment and willingness to positively engage in koala conservation and recovery programs
  • develop strategies for monitoring the effectiveness of the implementation of on-ground management and recovery actions 

Koala Watch Project 2017-20 funded by the Environment Levy and NSW Environment Trust

This project is led by Friends of the Koala in partnership with local government areas in the Northern Rivers including Byron Shire Council.  The project is about empowering individuals in local communities in the Northern Rivers who live with koalas to gain the knowledge and skills to be proactive in the early detection of the major threats to koala populations and to undertake actions that reduce or eliminate threats.

The project focuses on disease (Chlamydia and Retrovirus), dogs (domestic and wild dogs), vehicle strikes, and catastrophic fire and storm events. It aims to deliver workshops and educational materials to enable local communities to identify visual, audible, and behavioural distress signs in koalas.  The project seeks to work closely with rural and urban communities, schools, and industry (emergency services, dairy, beef, orchardists, floodplain croppers, lifestyle landholders).

Previous Koala Connections Project

Award winning Koala Connections 2012-16 funded by the Australian Government  

Koala Connections was a $2.1m collaborative project between Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council. 

The project aimed at restoring and reconnecting koala habitat to provide a secure future for koalas on the NSW far north coast. 

Key outcomes included:

  • >73,000 trees planted on over 120 sites
  • 55 hectares and 150 hectares of new and improved koala habitat respectively
  • > 800 people attending training, working bees and other events
  • Vertebrate pest management control over nearly 4,000 hectares
  • New resources to improve fire management to benefit the protection of koalas and their habitat
  • Proven success of pesticide free techniques for revegetation projects at two sites
  • Monitoring and evaluation of project sites continues to demonstrate a planting establishment rates > 90%

Did you know?

Did you know that koalas have a caecum (part of the large intestine) that is up to 2.5m (8ft) long for processing low-quality eucalyptus leaves? This is the longest caecum of any mammal in proportion to body size and a meal can take up to five days to pass through the koala's intestine.

Why do koalas have such a long caecum?

It contains millions of bacteria which helps break down the leaves into a substance that the intestines can extract nutrients from. Without this long caecum koalas would not be able to live on eucalyptus leaves.

Here is an interesting fact for you!

Did you know that male koalas produce a bellow of a very low pitch, 20 times lower than would be expected from an animal of their size? In fact it is so low it is more typical for an animal the size of an elephant!!

How do they do this?

Koalas have an extra pair of laryngeal vocal folds that are located where the oral and nasal cavities connect (instead of inside the voice box!) This is the only example of a specialised sound-producing organ outside the voice box in any terrestrial mammal making our koalas one of a kind. How awesome is that?!

If you haven’t yet started counting koalas, there is still time to jump on board and help support this wonderfully unique marsupial! Get out there and make a difference!