Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to assess Crestwood-Lake Innes fire's impact on koalas

The Crestwood-Lake Innes fire continues to burn. Photo: Silver Quinn Productions

The Crestwood-Lake Innes fire continues to burn. Photo: Silver Quinn Productions

Fears are growing hundreds of koalas have been killed in a fire south of Port Macquarie.

The bushfire, which is more than 2,200 hectares in size, is burning in the area of Lake Innes and Lake Cathie.

The Lake Innes Nature Reserve, Innes Peninsula and a nearby area is known as a koala hub.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan said it was commonly called the engine room and was where the genetic stock of the Port Macquarie, Lake Cathie, Bonny Hills, and to some extent, the Wauchope koalas came from.

The area has a genetically diverse source population of koalas. Genetic diversity is important when it comes to koala population health and resilience.

"Because koalas are in serious decline, these animals are absolutely vital," Ms Flanagan said.

"This is the fire we have been dreading since 2002."

Scenes like this confronted firies on Tuesday night. Photo: Steve Drew

Scenes like this confronted firies on Tuesday night. Photo: Steve Drew

The hospital's clinical director estimated more than 350 koalas could have died.

"So far over two thirds of the current footprint of the fire is prime koala habitat (or was)," Ms Flanagan said.

"Crunching the numbers based on koala survey work of the whole LGA (local government area) - it is looking like conservatively, based on a 60% mortality, that 350-plus koalas have died in the last three days in this fire."

A team from Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, with National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers, will assess the damage and rescue injured koalas and any other injured animals after receiving clearance from NSW Rural Fire Service.

A line search will be conducted as part of the process.

Injured koalas will be taken to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and other injured animals passed on to FAWNA.

One part of the fireground at Lake Cathie. Photo: Lisa Willows

One part of the fireground at Lake Cathie. Photo: Lisa Willows

Ms Flanagan urged people not to go onto the fire ground and leave the animal rescue to the experts.

She gave an ongoing thank you to the firefighters.

"I reckon they should be made national heroes," Ms Flanagan said.

"What would we do without the firies? They are just absolute legends."

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's Koala Recovery Strategy said large landscape bushfire was a major threat to koalas in the local government area.

"Koalas become trapped at the top of trees and cannot escape," the strategy said.

The strategy said koalas frequently experienced direct mortality or injuries such as burnt paws.

"Wildfire can also result in severe short-term shortages of food resources for local populations," the document said.

This story It's the fire koala experts have dreaded since 2002 first appeared on Port Macquarie News.