Koalas

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is one of Australia's most loved and iconic animals. In Brisbane, and many other parts of Australia, their numbers have dropped rapidly due to habitat loss, dog attacks, vehicle strike and disease. Koalas are listed as vulnerable under national and state legislation and as significant in the Brisbane City Plan 2014. Brisbane City Council is committed to seeking ways to conserve and protect Brisbane’s koala population.

Koala facts

The information in this section is specific to koalas in Brisbane. For more koala facts, visit the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science website.

Status

This table shows the conservation status of the koala - international, Commonwealth, state, local.
Geographic region Legislation Status
International International Unit for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN) Vulnerable
Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)  Vulnerable
State Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992  Vulnerable
Local Brisbane City Plan 2014 Significant

Distribution

Koalas occur in patchy distribution across the Southeast Queensland bioregion, which extends from Gladstone in the north to the New South Wales border in the south and west to Toowoomba.

Koalas were once common across Greater Brisbane, occurring from the northern suburbs west through Pine Rivers (Moreton Bay local government area (LGA)) and into the south-east of Brisbane City ('the Koala Coast'), Redlands (mainland) and Logan City. 

Koalas still occur in many areas of Brisbane, including large bushland reserves and smaller habitat patches in urban areas. They utilise trees in backyards, urban parks and thin vegetation corridors. Koalas live in some of the large forested areas including Toohey Forest Park, Mt Coot-tha Reserve and Brisbane Koala Bushlands. Creek corridors such as Bulimba Creek provide important habitat, as well as connectivity between larger forested areas.

Access up-to-date records of koala sightings in Brisbane on the Atlas of Living Australia website.

Habitat

Koalas are highly mobile and can live anywhere with access to food and habitat trees. Across Brisbane, koalas use native and non-native trees for rest and usually move across the ground from tree to tree.

Koalas need both food and shelter trees. Some non-native trees (e.g. camphor laurel) are well used by koalas seeking shade. In hot conditions, koalas are commonly found in shady trees (regardless of species) along densely vegetated creeks and gullies.

Koalas can still live where trees are sparse. In some areas, they use isolated trees in parks, as well as street trees.

Koalas don't only rely on eucalypts. Many other trees provide important refuge and shelter, including Corymbia, Melaleuca, Lophostemon or Angophora species. 

Diet

In South East Queensland, koalas rely primarily on the following tree species for food:

  • Eucalyptus tereticornis (blue gum)
  • Eucalyptus microcorys (tallowwood)
  • Eucalyptus moluccana (gum-topped box)
  • Eucalyptus propinqua (small-fruited grey gum)
  • Eucalyptus resinifera (red stringybark)
  • Eucalyptus robusta (swamp mahogany)
  • Eucalyptus seeana (fine-leaved red gum)
  • Eucalyptus major (Queensland grey gum).

Around Brisbane, secondary species include brush box (Lophostemon confertus) and broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia).

Reproduction and lifecycle

Sexually mature koalas (around three years old for males and two years old for females) can breed at any time of year, but most mating occurs in early spring (September and October).

For more information, refer to the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Science website.

Movement

Koalas in South East Queensland occupy areas of approximately five hectares, but it can be as much as 30 hectares. The size of their home depends on the quality and extent of their habitat.

Koalas disperse after spending a year with their mother. In Brisbane, they can move as much as 10 kilometres. 

Koala threats

There are four key threats to koalas in Brisbane

Dog attacks

Dog attacks are common when koalas enter suburban backyards. Any dog can cause serious injury or death. Some dog attacks occur in bushland reserves and parks, when owners do not have their dogs on leash and under control.

Read our dogs and koalas page.

Disease

The main disease koalas face is Chlamydia, which can lead to infertility, blindness and death.

Disease in koalas is becoming more prevalent as habitat declines. With koalas located in more isolated pockets of habitat, disease can cause local extinctions through infertility and death. 

Habitat loss

Habitat loss is the primary cause of koala decline in South East Queensland.

Habitat loss can lead to koalas becoming more vulnerable to other threats such as vehicle strike and dog attacks, as they move more widely to seek food and shelter and mates. 

Road trauma and vehicle strike

Road trauma is a significant cause of koala mortality. 

There are many 'hot spot' roads for koalas throughout Brisbane. Drivers should exercise caution during the koala breeding season.

What Council is doing to protect and conserve Brisbane koalas

To help protect and conserve Brisbane's koalas, Council is:

Koala Research Partnerships program

As part of Council's commitment to conserve and protect Brisbane’s koala population, Council is currently investing in koala research through the Koala Research Partnerships program.

Additionally, Council is working with universities on research projects that contribute to koala conservation primarily by addressing key threats to koalas. 

It is expected that this research will make a significant positive contribution to ensuring the longevity of healthy koala populations in Brisbane, as well as advance the knowledge and understanding of the species and their habitat.

Koala detection dog surveys

In 2017 and 2018, Council commissioned a city-wide koala survey of 33 Council bushland areas using the unique services of Certified Environmental Practitioners operating with koala detection dogs.

These dogs are purpose-bred and professionally trained to locate koala scats, with an ability to find them up to 18 months after the koala has moved away. Genetic analysis of the scats detected by the dogs provide important information about the presence and distribution of koalas, as well as information on koala health, genetic diversity, population structure, breeding and movement behaviour.

Although this study allowed us to estimate relative koala activity within and between the surveyed bushland areas, it was not designed to provide a census and therefore cannot be used to estimate population numbers of koalas living in Brisbane.

Sign up to Atlas of Living Australia to view the 2017 and 2018 Koala Dog Survey reports.

What you can do to help protect Brisbane koalas

If you live in a koala habitat area or movement corridor, protect koalas by:

  • being a responsible dog owner and walking your dog on a leash (outside of designated dog off-leash areas) and following the tips on our dogs and koalas page
  • care for injured wildlife by becoming a registered wildlife carer
  • driving carefully and slowing down, especially during the koala breeding season
  • ensuring koalas can escape from your swimming pool in they fall in (e.g. have a rope ladder to allow them to climb out, or provide flotation devices for refuge)
  • installing fauna-friendly fencing to allow koalas to move freely through your property if you don't have a dog (avoid using barbed wire)
  • joining a local Habitat Brisbane community bushcare group or Creek Catchment group
  • planting koala food and shelter species on your property. Council's Free Native Plants Program offers free plants to help grow Brisbane's urban forest and support local wildlife
  • registering as a Wildlife Conservation Partnerships Program partner (eligibility criteria apply)
  • reporting koala sightings to the Atlas of Living Australia website and checking whether there have been sightings in your local area

To report sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, phone the RSPCA Native Animal Ambulance Service on 1300 ANIMAL.

To report a dead animal, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

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Last updated: 14 September 2021