Endangered koalas of the Gold Coast are the focus of many conservation efforts by groups across our region, from the care and rescue sector to bush regeneration, research, vaccination trials, community education, threat management, advocacy for policy reform to protect their habitat and more.

Gecko recognises the ongoing connection and care of Country, and borobi our koalas, by the Traditional Custodians of the Gold Coast.

Threats to our koalas

The Gold Coast’s endangered koala populations are facing increasing threats with the “double C squeeze” of climate change and coastal population growth and development. Along with car strikes, dog attack, rising heat, and the disconnection and loss of suitable vegetation and habitat, koalas are more limited in their natural bioregional movement, making them more vulnerable to stress and disease.

Although we often see wild koalas as sleepy slow animals, they naturally move through their bioregion and home range which can span kilometres, travelling between feed trees, resting trees, or moving on from their genetic family to find a mate.

The Gold Coast’s critical habitat corridors are vital green infrastructure for the continuing health and protection of both humans and wildlife. They provide areas of continuous connection, linking ecosystems, and providing natural resilience to heat and hazards.

The Burleigh to Springbrook Corridor is culturally and ecologically very significant, in that it protects a wide range of vegetation and wildlife and is a place of local dreaming and culturally significant sites as well as ongoing cultural education and practice. This corridor is a refuge for koala populations however through the Burleigh sections there are many threats that may be mitigated further with infrastructure, road ecology and education.

Development of Coomera Connector is having a significant impact on koalas in the Gold Coast’s north, and while several underpasses are planned in the final construction, koala movement is riskier, and has been limited over two breeding seasons.


Burleigh fauna overpass

Since 2019 Gecko Environment Council has advocated for a stand-alone fauna overpass, a land bridge planted with habitat between Burleigh Heads National Park and Burleigh Ridge Conservation Park. Several fauna overpasses in QLD are proving successful for encouraging the safe movement of native wildlife including koalas, other mammals, microbats, and birds.

With more than 25,000 vehicles a day travelling over the headland, a fauna overpass over the Gold Coast Highway would decrease vehicle strikes and increase the safety of animal movement in this corridor and close a gap in the continuous movement of wildlife.

Sign the petition to the QLD Government for a fauna overpass here.

Learn more about Burleigh koala conservation here, and read this one-page summary for further info about the success of Compton Road overpass in Brisbane.

How you can help

Koalas are a vital part of healthy ecosystems, and by protecting koalas we are also helping to protect and conserve many other native animals who share their habitat.

Tell the good stories in your community and in letters, phone calls and visits to your local representatives. They need to hear directly why protecting our local koalas matters to you!

  • Join Gecko Environment Council and Coomera Conservation Group and support our advocacy for koala conservation. Contact us here.
  • Start a local koala group, contact Gecko for more info and support.
  • Make a visit to our local councillor and MP to chat about local koalas and why it’s important to protect them
  • Join Wildcare as a wildlife transporter, or train up for a rescuer or carer role
  • Plant natives and koala feed trees in your garden
  • Assess your backyard and make it a koala friendly design
  • Adjust your driving, especially close to dawn and dusk and through the night when koalas are more on the move
  • Take your dog to wildlife aversion training and keep domestic pets inside at night
  • Talk to friends and family about what they can do too!

Resources and links:
Wildcare Australia
City of Gold Coast: Koala Conservation
QLD Government Koala Conservation Strategy
Griffith University Wildlife Watcher events

Fun koala facts

  • Koalas are among just a few Aussie animals that can eat and digest usually toxic eucalyptus leaves. But they do have special tastes and have preferred feed trees.
  • Ideal koala habitat is woodland near water sources, not so koalas can directly access water to drink, but because the trees need to have enough water for koalas to get it through the leaves.
  • Koala gestation lasts 30-36 days before giving birth to a tiny jelly-bean (about 1 gram!) pink joey who climbs its way into mums pouch to stay for about 6 months.
  • Koalas have unique fingerprints, just like us!

Advocacy on SEQ Koala legislation and policy

Habitat loss is a key threat to koalas on the Gold Coast, making local populations more susceptible to other issues such as stress and disease. In 2020 new legislation and policy was introduced by the QLD Government to increase planning controls and protect high-quality, mapped koala habitat in south east QLD. The regulations were a vast improvement on koala habitat regulations under the Planning Regulation 2017 and signalled the governments recognition that Koalas are under significant pressure from habitat loss, climate change, fire, dog attack, vehicle strikes, and disease and many local populations are in decline. The regulations have successfully protected 100,000ha – where priority koala habitat is identified and there are prohibitions for development.

Gecko Environment Council and Coomera Conservation Group have been engaged in a ‘decision post-implementation review’ of the regulations by the QLD Government, expressing specific concerns, local population needs and potential improvements to support conservation of Gold Coast koalas.

It is the shared view of our conservation councils (along with Sunshine Coast Environment Council and QLD Conservation Council) that the regulations could go much further in protecting koala habitat, particularly in areas of urban development where Koala Priority Areas are rapidly becoming fragmented islands of habitat for persisting koala populations experiencing multiple threats. Collectively we are advocating for further collaboration between the State and Local Governments to ensure funding and strategic identification of areas for habitat restoration that support the natural bioregional movement of koalas.

All remaining koala habitat should be viewed as critical – and we also need to identify and restore potential habitat.

The mapping of koala priority areas is largely science-informed and the methodology has been updated several times since 2020. Gecko urges the QLD Government to expand the mapping program and incorporate information about areas for potential restoration to inform decision-makers delivering conservation projects.

The review of the regulations also revealed that land clearing exemptions were being gamed in numerous cases, resulting in larger clearing of koala habitat areas by taking advantage of a regulation loophole. While protections are in place by law, monitoring and enforcing compliance have also proven challenging due to limited information availability on lawful and unlawful clearing exemptions.

Other sectors have advocated for simpler and faster development approval processes – It’s worth remembering that the conservation sector are not the only voices advocating for interests and values in the review of the koala rules and regulations. The government are proposing to introduce a notification process, enabling a better understanding of habitat loss and investigations of compliance. The review hopes to update guidance to also encourage site design to utilise areas that don’t have koala habitat wherever possible. There will be a user interface with guidance to support landowners making decisions about clearing and a new self-assessment pathway for small scale rural and residential development.

Beyond SEQ, the picture is grim for koalas due to the increasing impacts of climate change on both individuals and their habitat. Conservation councils are advocating for urgent expansion of the regulations, and interim measure while they are developed, especially along the coastline to central QLD. The government’s current plan is to assess the specific threats to koalas outside of SEQ and design mapping methodology to inform expansion of legislation to protect koala habitat.

SEQ Koala Conservation Strategy 2020-2025 

The QLD Government Koala Conservation Strategy (KCS) is implemented in parallel to the regulations with the intent to stabilise koala population numbers in SEQ, increase net koala habitat, restore habitat, and reduce threats, with a focus on identified threat priority areas. The vision is to “Halt the decline of koala populations in the wild in SEQ, and secure their long-term survival”. Initiatives from habitat restoration to vaccination trials are largely delivered with partners like Healthy Land and Water and Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. In addition to the state’s KCS there is a National Recovery Plan for koalas with a variety of threat mitigation projects being implemented across QLD. Evolution of this strategy is expected as we near the completion of the KCS delivery and Gecko will be engaging with the State Government to continue advocating for the threat mitigation and habitat restoration our Gold Coast populations need to avoid local extinction.