Bushfire donations fund koala breeding

It's hoped up to 60 koalas will be housed in a breeding facility in the Corowa State Forest.
It's hoped up to 60 koalas will be housed in a breeding facility in the Corowa State Forest.

Donations collected for bushfire relief after swathes of Australia burned last summer will fund a world-first breeding program for wild koalas on the NSW mid north coast.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has partnered with the Taronga Conservation Society, the Australian Museum and the University of Sydney on the program, which will run as a trial for three years.

A breeding facility, which it's hoped will house up to 60 koalas, will be built on land in the Corowa State Forest from bushfire donations.

An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced and up to seven billion trees destroyed or damaged during the bushfires.

Program director Cheyne Flanagan said it was sad the funding had come from a tragedy but she was touched by the enormous support.

"We had massive boxes of burns treatments coming from places like Italy and Germany and it would have cost them a fortune to get that stuff into Australia," she told AAP.

"But everyone worldwide was so worried about what was happening, and so many people were terrified that they would never see koalas again."

"The outpouring from the world has just been mind boggling, and it's just wonderful to see, but at the same time is a reminder that the world is watching how we deal with this."

The program will be completely different to zoo breeding programs, she says.

"Ours are purely wild koalas bred for wild conditions."

Initially koalas will be sourced from the mid north coast only, with the aim of releasing selected offspring back in to the area.

Taronga will lend its hands-on breeding expertise, while the Australian Museum will help determine the best mating pairs and the habitat requirements of specific threatened populations to develop more targeted management strategies.

Researchers from the University of Sydney will provide expertise on genetics and how to improve breeding and translocation decisions.

However, Ms Flanagan says the breeding programs alone is not enough to save koalas, when their habitat is disappearing so quickly.

"We've got to ensure these animals that are bred and put back out into the wild are safe because it's just going to be pointless otherwise," she said.

"There is a hell of a lot that has got to go along with it. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it."

Australian Associated Press