'DECIMATED': Fire wipes out significant koala colonies
THE Busbys Flat fire has burnt through one of the most important Koala colonies on the north-coast in Braemar, Carwong and Royal Camp State Forests, according to the North East Forest Alliance.
NEFA estimate that some 350-700 Koalas inhabit these State Forests, with many likely to have been directly affected by fire and smoke, and many more affected by the loss of browse (leaves of the preferred eucalypt feed trees).
NEFA spokesman Dailan Pugh said the most urgent need is for a search and rescue operation for fire affected Koalas.
"Koalas were already suffering from the drought, and are now likely to have been significantly impacted by these fires. It will take years for Koalas to recover as many trees will have been defoliated and it will take months for regrowth to provide replacement browse.
Friends of the Koalas president Ros Irwin predicted the populations within those colonies were "more than likely comprehensively decimated".
"We are keeping our fingers crossed that they might be able to find places in between the fires where they can be safe," she said.
"But generally because the fires are so hot, it would be difficult for koalas to survive in that kind of heat.
"We won't know the damage until we can get in, and unless we get significant rain, that could be weeks. We are happy to go at any time, but no one can get in at the moment because the fires aren't contained."
She said so far, only one Koala had been brought into FOTK from the RFS, and it was deceased and they were expecting more.
"I've told the RFS we are ready to go if they find any other koalas."
She said they were the only group with the licence to rescue koalas in the region (comprising of six local Government areas, including Clarence Valley).
She echoed importance of a search and rescue operation for any surviving koalas, but the organisation wouldn't be sending a team down until the RFS allowed access.
"It's significantly devastating to the already dwindling koala populations," she said.
"It's been significant for the human population and all of the other wildlife - it's not just the koalas that will be devastated by this - it will be most wildlife and even some domestic animals."
Mr Pugh said NEFA had called upon the NSW Government to abandon its imminent plans to log some of the best Koala habitat in Braemar State Forest.
The resident Koalas are likely to have been severely affected by the fire, and suitable browse will be in short supply for months to come, the last thing they need is for the Forestry Corporation to log their surviving feed trees.
"The Environment Protection Authority undertook systematic Koala surveys in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests in 2015, surely the first step needs to be to reassess those areas to identify how this population has been affected.
"NEFA has also amassed abundant data on Braemar's Koalas to contribute to any post-fire review.
"The danger is that if the Forestry Corporation blunders in there now it could be the death knell of this nationally significant Koala population", Mr. Pugh said.