Koalas in Victoria
Koalas are widespread throughout eucalypt woodlands and forests in lowland Victoria. Compared to northern Australian states where koala numbers are declining, Victoria has a large and thriving koala population. In some areas of the state, koalas can occur at very high densities and can over-browse the habitat and cause widespread defoliation of preferred food trees.
Management of koalas in Victoria has been an active and evolving process for more than 95 years. The Victorian Koala Management Strategy sets out a range of priority actions to ensure Victoria’s koala populations and habitat are secure, healthy and sustainable in the long-term.
Koala Disease Surveillance Project
Melbourne Veterinary School has commenced a koala disease surveillance project to investigate the prevalence of disease and causes of death in Victorian koalas. The project will improve our understanding of the impact of disease on Victoria’s koala populations and will inform how koalas are managed in the future.
If you have located a recently deceased koala in the wild or that has been in care for 5 days or less, it may be eligible for inclusion in the project. Please see the flyer below for more information:
The project is part of the implementation of the Victorian Koala Management Strategy. For more information about the project, visit the Melbourne Veterinary School’s project website.
The Great Victorian Koala Survey
The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action's Arthur Rylah Institute, in partnership with Deakin University, Federation University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Queensland, has commenced a comprehensive monitoring program of Victoria’s koala populations.
The Great Victorian Koala Survey will deliver several actions in the new Victorian Koala Management Strategy and will provide us with more accurate koala population estimates and information about the health and genetic structure of Victoria’s koala populations.
The results from the surveys will be available in late 2024 and will be used to inform koala conservation and management activities, and the delivery of other actions in the Victorian Koala Management Strategy.
To find out more about the Great Victorian Koala Survey and how you can get involved, please visit the Arthur Rylah Institute website at: ari.vic.gov.au/research/threatened-plants-and-animals/the-great-victorian-koala-survey
The Victorian Koala Management Strategy
The new Victorian Koala Management Strategy replaces the 2004 version. It outlines the vision, goals, issues and actions for the conservation and management of Victoria’s koalas for the next ten years.
The strategy’s vision is that our koala populations and habitat are secure, healthy and sustainable in the long-term.
The new strategy was developed by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) in collaboration with Traditional Owners, scientists, animal welfare organisations, wildlife carers, veterinarians, the blue gum plantation industry and other Government agencies from Victoria and interstate.
The new strategy also incorporates community feedback received during a six-week public consultation between February and April 2022.
The full strategy and a summary of the strategy are available below.
What the strategy will do
Victoria is fortunate to have a large koala population, with close to half a million living across the state. While the population is large, it faces threats such as disease, climate change and poor genetic diversity. Over the next decade, the strategy will help us better understand and continuously improve the way we manage the key threats facing our koala populations.
The strategy covers ten key issue themes:
- Traditional Owners and koalas
- Overpopulation of koalas
- Koala rehabilitation
- Koala genetics
- Disease in koalas
- Habitat conservation
- Understanding koala populations
- Climate change and managing fire impacts
- Koalas in plantations
- Community perception and socioeconomic significance
For each theme, we’ve identified one or two actions. These actions will increase our understanding of Victoria’s koala populations, the threats they are facing and how best to manage them.
Establishing Traditional Owner partnerships, undertaking research, and involving the community in koala management activities are key components of the strategy.
How the strategy will be delivered
DEECA is responsible for delivering the strategy’s actions in partnership with Traditional Owners, public and private landholders and managers, Parks Victoria, Zoos Victoria, Local Government, Catchment Management Authorities, universities, the blue gum plantation industry, wildlife carers, vets, conservation and community groups, and the Victorian community.
The 2022-23 Victorian State Budget provides $3.309 million over two years to support actions under the strategy, including delivering on-ground koala management programs and undertaking vital research that will help us conserve our koala populations into the future.
The implementation plan for the strategy is available below. The implementation plan is a live document and will be updated as needed throughout the life of the strategy.
Implementation of the strategy will be supported by an Implementation Working Group, which will ensure the delivery of the actions under the strategy are on track.
How the strategy will be reviewed
The strategy will be reviewed in two years to ensure it is on track and to determine priority actions for the next phase of delivery.
Actions conducted in the first two years will improve our understanding of Victoria’s koala populations and their habitat.
The results of these actions will help us determine the priorities for the years following.
The review schedule and progress reports will be published here when they become available.
Public consultation process for the draft strategy
For more information about the public consultation process, or to download a copy of the consultation report, go to: engage.vic.gov.au/VKMS.
Koala abundance model for Victoria
Scientists from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI) have developed the first state-wide koala abundance model for Victoria.
The model produces state-wide and regional estimates of koala abundance for Victoria. The model estimated a state-wide koala population of 459,865, with an estimated 412,948 koalas in native forest and woodland and a further 46,917 in eucalypt plantations.
The estimates produced by the model will be used to inform actions under the new Victorian Koala Management Strategy, which is currently being developed (see above for more information).
The full report on the koala abundance model is available below, along with a fact sheet that summarises the findings.
You can help
You can help koalas by improving the habitat on your property. Koalas need many healthy mature trees for food and shelter.
Be aware of road signs indicating koalas are in the area and slow down. Koalas may be moving along the road. Be especially careful at dawn and dusk when visibility is poor and koalas are likely to be moving between trees.
If you do see koalas or other wildlife when you are driving, be careful and give them plenty of time to move off the road.
Take care with your dog. Unrestrained dogs can harass and injure wildlife.
Please report sick or injured koalas to the nearest wildlife shelter.
You can call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186 for contact details of wildlife rehabilitation organisations in your area or use the Help for Injured Wildlife tool to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your local area.
Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are Australia’s largest arboreal (tree-dwelling) marsupials. They are also one of Australia’s most iconic animals.
Koalas are found in inland and coastal areas of eastern Australia, from north-east Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. Victorian koalas have longer and thicker fur than koalas living in Queensland, which is an adaptation to Victoria’s colder climate.
Koalas living in Victoria are also generally larger than those living in Queensland. In Victoria, male koalas can weigh up to 15 kg and females are slightly smaller, weighing up to 11 kg. Koalas live for up to 20 years in the wild.
Koalas feed almost exclusively on leaves of eucalyptus trees, which provide a diet that is low in energy. Eucalyptus species preferred by koalas in Victoria include Manna Gum (Eucalyptusviminalis), Swamp Gum (E. ovata), Blue Gum (E. globulus) and River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis).
Because of their low energy diet, koalas are sedentary for most of the day and are only active for around four hours, usually after dark. Koalas usually move between trees by walking along the ground, however, they can also jump between trees.
Koalas are generally solitary, only interacting during breeding season. Although they are not territorial, koalas have relatively well defined home ranges ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 hectares in ideal habitat. Home ranges of individual koalas often overlap, however koalas do not normally share trees at the same time.
Koalas breed from September to March with a single young being born after a 33 – 35 day pregnancy. The baby koala, called a 'joey', remains in the mother's pouch for approximately six months. After leaving the pouch, the joey will ride on its mother’s back until it is weaned. Weaning occurs at around one year of age.
The conservation status of koalas varies by state and despite being listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, koalas are widespread in Victoria and South Australia and are overabundant in some areas and can cause defoliation of preferred tree species in those areas.
While Victoria’s koala population is currently secure, it faces threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, bushfire, drought and disease.
Koalas may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they are prone to heat-related stress and dehydration and are poorly adapted to cope with increased temperatures and severe heat events.
Fragmentation of habitat is also a serious issue for koalas because they have a specialised low-energy, low-nutrient diet of eucalyptus leaves. This means that koalas have a limited amount of energy available to use travelling between patches of food trees.
Other threats to koalas include attack by domestic dogs and vehicle collisions.
Page last updated: 08/02/24