Koala numbers fall at Yanchep National Park

Since 2019 some koalas from the Yanchep National Park colony have been humanely euthanised due to declining health arising from old age. Picture: Anita McInnes

KOALA numbers at Yanchep National Park have fallen with only half the population there now compared with three years ago.

Prior to the 2019 Yanchep bushfire there were eight koalas in the colony located in the national park’s enclosure.

But a Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) spokeswoman said there were now four koalas left in the colony.

She said based on veterinary advice, four females from the colony had been humanely euthanised since 2019 due to declining health arising from old age.

“The average life expectancy of female koalas in the wild is 12 years, and all four euthanised koalas were older than 17 years,’’ she said.

As they are a big attraction at the national park Yanchep News Online asked if there was a plan to introduce some new koalas or would the existing ones be allowed to die out and not be replaced.

“It is anticipated that more koalas will be added to the colony in the future,’’ she said.

In an interview in February 2020 after the Yanchep bushfire Parks and Wildlife Service district manager Mark Cugley told Yanchep News Online that DBCA, the Parks and Wildlife Service and Perth Zoo had been talking about the feed and habitat challenges that were facing koalas over east as the national park could accommodate more koalas.

At the time Mr Cugley said Yanchep National Park had not been approached to assist with the rehabilitation of koalas affected by fires in the eastern states.

“(But) DBCA is aware that many organisations on the east coast of Australia, in areas where koalas naturally occur, have offered to assist in recovery efforts,’’ he said.

Koalas are not native to Western Australia and the Yanchep colony’s inhabitants are descendants of koalas from Kangaroo Island.

According to the Koala Foundation koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island from French Island in Victoria.

The DBCA spokeswoman said the Yanchep National Park colony had been free of chlamydia and other diseases since the late 1980s.

With koalas chlamydia can lead to blindness and urinary tract infections linked to infertility among other serious clinical ailments.

“In addition to daily visual checks by national park staff, the four koalas currently living in the colony get regular veterinary checks,’’ the DBCA spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said the national park remained a popular destination with more than 280,000 visitors in the 2021-22 financial year.

“In addition to the koala colony, the park is home to western grey kangaroos and an array of bird species.

“Tours of the unique Crystal Cave and Aboriginal Experience tours are also popular attractions, along with camping, walk trails, the historic Yanchep Inn and the Trees Adventure.”