Research, Connect, Protect



Conserving Koalas: A review of the contrasting regional trends, outlooks and policy changes

Clive McAlpine a,⁎, Daniel Lunney b,c, Alistair Melzer d, Peter Menkhorst e, Stephen Phillips f, David Phalen g,

William Ellis h, William Foley i, Greg Baxter a, Deidre de Villiers h, Rodney Kavanagh i,j, Christine Adams-Hosking a,

Charles Todd e, Desley Whisson k, Robyn Molsher l, Michele Walter m, Ivan Lawler n,o, Robert Close p

aThe University of Queensland, Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, Brisbane 4072, Australia b fice of Environment and Heritage NSW, PO Box 1967, Hurstville NSW, Australia Of

cSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia d Central Queensland University, Koala Research Centre of Central Queensland, School of Medical and Applied Sciences, Rockhampton 4702, Australia

e Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 123 Brown Street, PO Box 137, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084, Australia

fBiolink Ecological Consultants, PO Box 3196, Uki, NSW 2484, Australia

g The University of Sydney, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, NSW 2006, Australia h The University of Queensland, Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, Sustainable Minerals Institute, Brisbane 4072, Australia

iThe Australian National University, Research School of Biology, Canberra 0200, Australia

jNiche Environment and Heritage, PO Box 2443, North Parramatta, NSW 1750 Australia

k Deakin University, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Burwood, Victoria 312, Australia

lDepartment of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, PO Box 39, Kingscote, South Australia 5223, Australia

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, PO Box 1047, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia

n Marine and Freshwater Species Conservation Section, Heritage and Wildlife Division, Department of the Environment, Australian Government, GPO Box 787, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

o School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Douglas, Queensland 4814, Australia

p Western Sydney University, School of Science and Health, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia


The koala (Phascolarctoscinereus), one of the world's most iconic faunal species, was recently listed under Australian government legislation as vulnerable in the northern states of Queensland and New South Wales and in the Australian Capital Territory, but not in the southern states of Victoria and South Australia. This review synthesises empirical evidence of regional koala population trends, their conservation outlook, and associated policy challenges. Population declines are common in the northern half of the koala's range, where habitat loss, hotter droughts, disease, dog attacks and vehicle collisions are the major threats. In contrast, some southern populations are locally overabundant and are now subject to managed declines. The koala presents the problem of managing a wideranging species that now primarily occurs in human-modified landscapes, some of which are rapidly urbanising or subject to large-scale agricultural and mining developments. Climate change is a major threat to both northern and southern populations. The implementation of policy to conserve remaining koala habitat and restore degraded habitat is critical to the success of koala conservation strategies, but habitat conservation alone will not resolve the issues of koala conservation. There needs to be concerted effort to reduce the incidence of dog attack and roadrelated mortality, disease prevalence and severity, and take into account new threats of climate change and mining. Many of the complex conservation and policy challenges identified here have broader significance for other species whose population trends, and the nature of the threatening processes, vary from region to region, and through time.