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Koalas safely returned to the Blue Mountains

Koalas safely returned to the Blue Mountains

Four koalas and one new joey have successfully been reintroduced to the Blue Mountains after Australia's devastating bushfires.

Koalas safely returned to the Blue Mountains

First rescued from the bushfires in January which destroyed a massive stretch of their natural habitat, the koalas had been sheltered in safety at the Taronga Zoo.

With the area now deemed safe, Science for Wildlife, with the support of San Diego Zoo Global, reintroduced the koalas to their home.

“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.

The scientists had been assessing the burnt area to monitor whether 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,” said Dr Leigh.

The Blue Mountains is home to the most genetically diverse population of koalas in the world, says the scientists. Over 2.5 million acres of habitat was affected by the devastating bushfires that raced through the region.

“During the massive fires, as 80% of the World Heritage Area burnt, we were at risk of losing the entire koala population at this site and so that’s what drove us to try something so radical and pull these koalas out before the fire hit,” said Dr. Leigh

The reintroduction is part of a broader long-term effort to recover koala populations in the area.

“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, Population Sustainability researcher, San Diego Zoo Global. “We are dedicated to continuing to support this critical work to conserve a significant koala population.”

 “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 fire” said Dr. Leigh. “including where else we might find pockets of surviving koalas. That will help us to plan a future for koalas under climate change, where we expect more frequent and intense fires”

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