Australian bushfires: Desperate bid to save koalas as wildfire devastates NSW nature reserve

The NSW bushfires have severely damaged the koala population and their habitat.
The NSW bushfires have severely damaged the koala population and their habitat. Photo credit: Getty

A major rescue operation is underway as wildfires continue to sweep through a koala colony on New South Wales' coast.

In the course of two weeks, more than half a koala colony was estimated to be wiped out in the NSW bush fires.

Koala Conservation Australia President Sue Ashton believes out of a Port Macquarie colony of 600 koalas, as many as 350 are dead in the Lake Innes Nature Reserve. 

Over the weekend, rescuers brought in 16 wounded koalas to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

The rescued koalas have been nursed by carers who have been bandaging their wounds, feeding the animals eucalyptus leaves and formula. 

The hospital is telling those who live in the area to provide koalas access to water in order to reduce the risk of further deaths from dehydration.

Ashton thinks most of the dead animals were incinerated, telling the Sydney Morning Herald, "it's like a cremation, they have been burnt to ashes in the trees".

She added they "will be pushing up daisies before this koala colony recovers to their previous numbers".

The group has created a GoFundMe page to help koalas impacted by the forest fire. They hope to raise money to purchase and distribute automatic drinking stations for the dehydrated koalas. 

In 2012, koalas were listed as threatened species. Now the population has drastically dropped and the animals have been labelled vulnerable.

"Port Macquarie had one of the healthiest koala populations in the state. If we continue at this rate, koalas will be extinct by 2050," James Tremain, spokesman for the NSW Nature Conservation Council, told the Sydney Morning Herald.