Conserving koala habitat at Springwood's Deanei Forest

There have been at least nine sightings of koalas in the Lower Mountains since 1987 and koala expert Dr Kellie Leigh says the good news is they are being spotted more often, and with the right food they could thrive.

Planting: Youth councillor Tamsyn McGrouther assists Winmalee Public School students Charli Maples, Monique Loughman and Evelyn Dacey.

Planting: Youth councillor Tamsyn McGrouther assists Winmalee Public School students Charli Maples, Monique Loughman and Evelyn Dacey.

"Koala sightings in the Lower Mountains are increasing in number every year, at least they were until the fires. We still received a few last mating season (spring/summer)," the executive director of Science for Wildlife, said.

"These koalas are extremely significant for conservation - we need to ensure they have a future under climate change."

Ms Leigh said shale cap forests are "notorious as favourites for koalas". That's why Blue Mountains Council chose the endangered species as one of a few in a mass planting at Deanei Forest Reserve at Springwood recently.

On May 26, Blue Mountains youth councillors and students from Winmalee Public School planted at least 80 koala habitat and food trees in the reserve, as part of Project Plant it which was started by Blue Mountains Youth Council in 2019. It aims to connect students to nature.

This year, the youth council not only teamed up with Science for Wildlife, but also The Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and Blue Mountains Bushcare to learn about koalas living in the Blue Mountains and how to help protect them from climate change.

As part of their school program, the students were advised they can also use the iNaturalist app to record their own citizen science efforts - taking photos and recording birds and other calls in the Deanei Forest Reserve.

"By sharing our knowledge with young school students, we hope to a positive impact on future conservation for koalas and other wildlife," Dr Leigh added.

Dr Leigh and her team were involved in the rescue of genetically diverse Mountains koalas during the last bushfires - a subject that made global headlines. Blue Mountains Kanangra-Boyd National Park koalas were considered critical to the survival of the koala species, due to their genetic diversity and the fact they're one of only two koala populations in NSW chlamydia free. The koalas have since been returned.

"We know there are also koalas in the Lower Blue Mountains although we are yet to survey them and learn their habitats,"she said.

Project Plant It is funded by council, with assistance from the NSW Environmental Trust's Forest for the Future Grant.

Youth councillor Chelsea Willingham said: "It is fantastic to be able to learn more about what we can do to help and share that knowledge with the students at Winmalee Primary School."

The children enjoyed a moving Welcome to Country by Darug woman Jacinta Tobin.

Koala sightings in the Lower Mountains. Source: Science for Wildlife.

Koala sightings in the Lower Mountains. Source: Science for Wildlife.