Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has launched the world's first wild koala breeding program.
The generosity of supporters from around the world after the devastating bushfires allowed the koala hospital to fast-track the program.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital's GoFundMe campaign, initially to buy and distribute wildlife drinking stations, was expanded to include the wild koala breeding program.
The campaign raised $7.9 million.
Koala Conservation Australia president Sue Ashton said the breeding program needed a number of components.
She said the Forestry Corporation of NSW had provided the site, the koala hospital was partnering with the Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics at the Australian Museum, Taronga Conservation Society and the University of Sydney to bring together the expertise, and they had the funds thanks to the public's generosity.
The breeding facility will be built at Cowarra State Forest on land managed by the Forestry Corporation of NSW.
Cheyne Flanagan is the director of koala breeding and research.
Ms Flanagan said for many years, habitat destruction, disease, car strike, dog attack and drought had been the instigators of causing the decline of koala populations, and of course, there were the fires in 2019-20.
The wild koala breeding program will begin with a three-year pilot program.
"All the animals that will be released will be fitted with radio collars and they will be tracked and that will also give us a lot more knowledge to ensure we are doing the right thing," she said.
There will first be a rigorous scientific study of targeted habitat areas.
Ms Flanagan recognised the expertise of the program partners.
"I know we can do it with the best in the business with us to achieve our goal," she said.
Taronga Conservation Society director of animal welfare, conservation and science Nick Boyle said each of the partners brought different elements which would lead to success.
Australian Museum geneticist Dr Matt Lott said the wild koala breeding program was a wonderful opportunity to bring together expertise from many different areas.
The aim is to breed koalas with a high level of genetic diversity.
Juvenile koalas will be released into the wild to create new populations and bolster existing populations.
The goal is also to put together protocols and procedures which can be offered as templates for others.
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams acknowledged the program's partnerships as well as the koala hospital volunteers.
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