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Friends of the Earth proposes a new 18,000 hectare koala reserve in Mullungdung State Forest.

Friends of the Earth have proposed to extend reserve areas within Mullungdung State Forest in the south east of Gippsland. Between June 2020 and September 2023, Friends of the Earth conducted 413 RAPID SAT koala surveys and some random scat searches totaling over 2900 trees at Mullungdung State Forest. A total of 44 survey days were involved in the project. 344 scats were found. Almost all of the surveys were conducted by FoE landuse researcher Anthony Amis. The surveys reveal a possible koala population of perhaps 600 animals in Mullungdung, potentially 24% of the entire Strzelecki koala population, the most genetically diverse koala population in Victoria and South Australia. It is crucial that the State Government acknowledge the significance of Mullungdung and act accordingly to reserve at least 18,000ha of koala habitat.

Any help with donations to keep our koala work ongoing are always appreciated.

Strzelecki (Mullungdung) koala in an Apple Top Box. Eucalyptus angopheroides. Photo: A Livermore

Although, Mullungdung represents a highly significant area in terms of koalas, FoE's population estimates fall well short of State Government estimations at Mullungdung by between 8-16 times.

Mullungdung and adjoining forests represent the largest area of contiguous native forest remaining in the South Gippsland Region (excluding Wilsons Promontory) and cover approximately 25,000ha. The planned reserve recommends an additional 18,000ha of land to Victoria’s Reserve System.

Local campaigners have also determined that Mullungdung has a significant glider population in forest areas that also were high in koala numbers. The glider population at Mullungdung also deserves immediate attention and further protection initiatives.

Location of Mullungdung State Forest (Yellow dot). Wonwron State Forest (red dot) and Holey Plains State Park (blue dot). Holey Plains was almost entirely devastated by a bush fire in April 2019 causing major impacts on the local koala population and Wonwron appears to have a much smaller koala population than Mullungdung but has been less intensively surveyed. Perhaps, like Holey Plains, Mullungdung and Wonwron could become State Parks?

Mullungdung would also most likely qualify as an area of Regional Koala Significance (eg an area larger than 4,000-5,000 hectares capable of sustaining a koala population of 500 animals). So far only an area called Morwell 1* could qualify as being such an area (*as determined by Biolink in 2023).

Mullungdung represents an opportunity for the state government to reserve 18,000ha of koala habitat at a time before a possible EPBC listing of the Strzelecki koala occurs. FoE nominated the Strzelecki koala under the EPBC Act in 2022. Although the nomination was knocked back, the Victorian Government is now undertaking genetic research which we believe will further confirm the significance of the Strzelecki koala and its range. The results of the Victorian Government research won’t be completed until 2025.

Existing legislation in Victoria cannot protect the Strzelecki koala based on its unique genetics. Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act does not allow listing a species based genetic diversity within a species, but the Federal EPBC Act does.

The decision to reserve large sections of Mullungdung, would show foresight by the State Government. Strzelecki koalas in the nearby Strzelecki Ranges are facing a myriad of issues, including ongoing fragmentation of habitat and the devastating consequences of fire, storms, plantation logging and the privatisation of most of their habitat in the 1990's. Recent estimates in Strzelecki Wet Forest in 2023 by Biolink revealed an estimated population 4 times less than actual numbers estimated by the State Government. The situation in the Strzelecki's is dire for koalas.

A new reserve at Mullungdung would help undo decades of neglect concerning the unique attributes of this animal.

The State Government is only one third of the way through a long winded (18 year!) process of establishing the 8,000ha Brataualung Forest Park in the Strzelecki Ranges. The Strzelecki's has the least amount (5%) of reserved land in any bioregion in Victoria. Only 30% of the Brataualung Park has been gazetted as of February 2024 and nothing has been gazetted since July 2018. Campaigners are frustrated by the length of time involved in getting the Brataualung Forest Park established and hope that the process involved in establishing further reserves at Mullungdung will not be so complicated or long winded. FoE also hopes that calls for a new reserve at Mullungdung do not further impact or lessen the significance of the Brataualung Forest Park hand back which FoE has been closely associated with for twenty years.

All of FoE’s koala scat information has now been added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and should have profound impacts on how Mullungdung is managed into the future including fire management.

Draft Reserve Proposal

Draft Map of the proposed reserve showing that new reserve would extend northwards of Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve to take in all state forest up to Monkey Creek and to the Stradbroke Flora and Fauna Reserve.  The distance between the existing Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve and Stradbroke Flora and Fauna Reserve is approximately 12kms.

This draft reserve map highlighting existing land tenure by including Special Protection Zones at Mullungdung.  Most koala scats were found in areas that are Special Protection Zones (SPZ’s). Almost all of the yellow shaded areas on the map are General Management Zones.

Special Protection Zones: are managed specifically for conservation values and designed to complement the formal reserves within the system. These may be established to protect occurrences of listed species and communities. Timber harvesting operations are 'generally' excluded from SPZs. General Management Zones: “are managed for a range of uses and values, but timber harvesting operations have high priority.”

Whilst SPZ's are supposed to complement the existing reserve system they do not have the long term legislative protection which guarantees their protection into the future. SPZ's can also allow for modified timber production to occur. SPZ's are not legally gazetted reserves covered by the Crown Lands Reserves Act. An SPZ can be revoked at any time by the State government Minister.  GMZ's are managed for a range of uses and values, but priority is for timber harvesting.

Despite the cessation of native forest logging in Eastern Victoria since the first of January 2024, it is unclear how long this recent decision will last and also unclear what will happen to state forests that were to be managed for timber production.

Survey Overview 2020-2023

Friends of the Earth, Mullungdung and Won Wron State Forest surveys 2020-2023. The K pin is a koala sighting, the green pins represent older scats, and the blue pin represents fresh scats. Mullungdung was targeted more intensely for surveying than WonWron, but koala numbers appear to be alot less at WonWron - however recent spotlighting by local campaigners has located koalas in the northern section of Won Wron.

In late 2021 FoE estimated that the koala population at Mullungdung was probably between 138 and 276 animals based on a population estimate of between 0.01 koalas/ha and 0.02 koalas/ha across most of Mullungdung.  These estimations were made from 87 surveys conducted at Mullungdung, mainly within 100m from roadsides and conducted in-between Covid 19 restrictions.

Surveys further into the forest, with closer emphasis on Ecolological Vegetation Classes and away from roads were conducted in 2022/23. A more accurate picture emerged, particularly regarding the extent of Mountain Grey Gums located at Mullungdung located in Creekline Herb Rich Woodland, Riparian Scrub, Lowland Forest and Plains Grassy Woodland Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC's). A lot more time was spent investigating creek lines and it has since become apparent that Mullungdung should be considered as perhaps the largest stronghold remaining for the unique Strzelecki koala.

The 2021 estimates assumed a koala 'consistent' population across almost the entire forest region. This is not correct, as koalas appear more numerous in the southern sections of the forest in comparison to the marginal koala habitat, totaling 5,000ha north of Monkey Creek. As a result, FoE has now increased its koala population estimates by over 200% on 2021 estimates.

Five times the amount of scats were located in 2022 compared to 2020 & 2021 combined due to targeting of riparian areas. As knowledge of the forest increased in 2022, it became clearer about the significance of Mountain Grey Gums in Creek Line Herb Rich Woodland and Riparian Scrub in particular.

Preferred Koala Feed Trees (PKFT's) at Mullungdung

Mountain Grey Gum with scats underneath at Mullungdung. Mountain Grey Gum is not even listed under the Gippsland Plains EVC's as a eucalypt species in Creekline Herb Rich Woodland, Riparian Scrub, Lowland Forest or Plains Grassy Woodland. It is listed only under Damp Forest and Wet Forest. Damp forest covers approximately 100ha at Mullungdung and there is no wet forest.

Phillips/Wallis 2016 determined that the Preferred Koala Feed Trees (PKFT) in the Strzelecki Ranges were Mountain Grey Gum, Blue Gum and Strzelecki Gum. More research was required regarding Swamp Gum due to the small sample size.

Mullungdung is located in the Gippsland Plains Bioregion, not the Strzelecki bioregion. Strzelecki Gum has been recorded near Mullungdung and only very small occurrences of bluegums occur in the forest, although there has been replanting of bluegum plantations/reforestation at a couple of locations.

The key PKFT species at Mullungdung appear to be Mountain Grey Gum and Swamp Gum. It was certainly a surprise to locate large stands of Mountain Grey Gum at Mullungdung.

12 different types of Eucalypts at Mullungdung had scats found under them. Only 40 Manna Gums and 41 Apple Top Box were surveyed and they had the highest strike rates* after Mountain Grey Gum and Swamp Gum. (*strike rates are determined by dividing the number of scats by the number of trees and type of trees surveyed).

The graph below is biased somewhat due to the priority of random searches under Mountain Grey Gums.

Most trees surveyed however were Yellow Stringybark.

Mountain Grey Gum’s at Mullungdung (see below) are found in a band stretching in a south east - north west direction over approximately 15km x 3km (4500ha). The Morris Creek catchment appears to be the stronghold of the Mountain Grey Gums. From the map below it is also evident that the majority of Mountain Grey Gum with koala scats are located outside of the under represented reserve system at Mullungdung. Key areas are Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve, the north of Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve and an area north and south of Shields Road.

Swamp Gum (see below) with scats were found mainly south of Monkey Creek but appear to be the PKFT in the south western section, eastern central riparian zones with key area south east of Kangaroo Swamp in the eastern headwaters of Four Mile Creek – it should be pointed out that Mountain Grey Gum were also found in this vicinity.


Swamp Gum in Riparian Scrub Ecological Vegetation Class

Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC's)

In December 2023, Friends of the Earth produced this video about Mullungdung and EVC's.

EVC map showing extent of Creekline Herb rich woodland (green with flecks) and riparian zones (in blue) in the southern portion of Mullungdung. 50% of koala scats were found in these two EVC’s, although they make up ~14% of the forest.

A large portion of the Mountain Grey Gums occurred in Creekline Herb Rich Woodland (CHRW) and Riparian Scrub. Some were also located in gully lines in Lowland Forest and Plains Grassy Woodland, but these areas probably should have been mapped on EVC maps as CHRW. Damp forest is the smallest EVC at Mullungdung and some Mountain Grey Gums were also found there.

The most scats however were found in Riparian Scrub where in some cases both Mountain Grey Gums and Swamp Gum were located.

16% of all trees surveyed were in Creekline Herb Rich Woodland and Riparian Scrub. 50.1% of scats were found in these two EVC’s.

77% of all trees surveyed were in Plains Grassy Woodland and Lowland Forest but these EVC's represented 45% of scats.

Creekline Herb Rich Woodland (CHRW) and Riparian Scrub therefore appear to be the key for sustaining a healthy koala population at Mullungdung. The soil along these creek lines may be of higher nutrient levels than forests along ridges, meaning higher quality nutrient and moisture content in the leaves.

Soils are also a key for providing key nutrients to koala feed trees. The soil types that appear to correspond to key koala locations at Mullungdung are: Sd (Stockdale Tertiary Sediments), Sd/Go (Stockdale sediments/Gormandale dunefield sediments) and Wd/Go Woodside alluvial sediments with Gormandale dunefield sediments). At nearby Wonwron State Forest, these soil types are lacking (except Wd/Go in more southern locations of Won Wron). Is this a key reason why koalas at Wonwron appear to be in much smaller numbers than Mullungdung?

Swamp Gum appear to be more sporadic and like Mountain Grey Gum don’t occur along all drainage lines in the Riparian Scrub EVC. Swamp Gum can also be present in wetland areas away from riparian zones in Lowland Forest and Plains Grassy Woodland EVC's. It appears that in the absence of Mountain Grey Gum, Swamp Gum is preferred by koalas.

Motorbike trails criss-cross Mullungdung State Forest. Hundreds of km's of illegal tracks have been created over the past few years including in riparian areas and conservation reserves. The other major issue other than fire management is firewood cutting, including illegal cutting.

Yellow Stringybark represented almost 36% of all trees surveyed at Mullungdung, but only 19% of scats. Messmate represented 21.4% of surveyed trees but 11% of scats. Yertchuk represented 12.2% of surveyed trees, with 8.1% of scats. By comparison Mountain Grey Gums represented 9.3% of surveyed trees, but 37.2% of scats.

About 25% of koala scats found under Yellow Stringybarks were found in close proximity Mountain Grey Gums with another 20% found in close proximity to swamp gums. About 50% of Yellow Stringybarks with scats were found in or close to riparian areas.

About 37% of koala scats found under Messmates were found in close proximity Mountain Grey Gums with another 13% found in close proximity to swamp gums. About 50% of Messmates with scats were found in or close to riparian areas.

The Graph above combines tree types, scats and EVC's. Mountain Grey Gum recorded most the scats in Riparian Scrub, Creekline Herb Rich Woodland, Lowland Forest and Damp Forest. Swamp Gum was second most utilised tree in Riparian Scrub. Yellow Stringybark easily recorded the most scats in Plains Grassy Forest. More validation of Mountain Grey Gum being the most significant PKFT at Mullungdung.


RAPID SAT surveys were conducted at 500 metre points based on grids of 1:50,000 map sheet. RAPID SAT surveys consist of surveying at least 7 trees for koala scats. This allows for an unbiased survey across the landscape.  In terms of the RAPID SAT sites only 15.7% (65/413) of sites were positive for koala scats. The highest strike rates were for Swamp Gum (7.61%) and Mountain Grey Gum (7.41%).

Although the Damp Forest EVC recorded the highest strike rates only 31 trees were sampled in this EVC and Damp Forest represents only 0.4% of Mullungdung. Only 107 trees were sampled in Creekline Herb Rich Woodland.

Yellow Stringybark represented almost 41.4% of all trees surveyed (921 trees) at Mullungdung, with 35.9% of scats. 47% of Yellow Stringybark scats were found within 50 metres of a riparian area.

Messmate represented 25% of surveyed trees but 15.6% of scats. 56% of Messmate scats were located within 50 metres of a riparian area.

Yertchuk represented 14.1% of surveyed trees, but 12.5% of scats, with 44% located in riparian areas.

By comparison Mountain Grey Gums represented 6% of surveyed trees, with 15.6% of scats detected in RAPID SAT sites. 78% of these scats were found within 50 metres of a riparian area.

Ecological Vegetation Class Total scats RAPID SAT Surveys
Positive scat trees in EVC found during RAPID SAT Surveys
Riparian Scrub 15 Swamp Gum (6), Yellow Stringybark (4), Mountain Grey Gum (3), Silvertop Ash (1), But But (1), 
Creekline Herb Rich Woodland 2 Mountain Grey Gum (1), Yellow Stringybark (1)
Lowland Forest 21 Yertchuk (6), Messmate (6), Yellow Stringybark (4), Mountain Grey Gum (2), Narrow Leaf Peppermint (2), Swamp Gum (1)
Plains Grassy Woodland 22 Yellow Stringybark (14), Mountain Grey Gum (3), Messmate (3), Narrow Leaf Peppermint (1), Silvertop Ash (1)
Damp Forest 3 Messmate (2), Mountain Grey Gum (1)
Heathy Woodland 1 Yertchuk (1)
Clay Heathland 1 Messmate (1)

During the walk between 500m RAPID SAT survey points, random trees would sometimes be surveyed for scats, particularly if the trees were large or if they were PKFT's. Random surveys would also occur if PKFT's were located outside of survey areas but in close proximity. During some survey days, riparian areas were targeted for random scat searches. Many more scats were found during these random searches, than in RAPID SAT surveys. Over five times as many scats were found in random searches than in RAPID SAT sites.

Ecological Vegetation Class Total scats 'random' searches
Positive scat trees in EVC found during 'random' Surveys
Riparian Scrub 93 Mountain Grey Gum (32), Swamp Gum (26), Manna Gum (8), Yellow Stringybark (7), Narrow Leaf Peppermint (7), Yertchuk (5), Apple Top Box (3), But But (3), Messmate (2), Shining Peppermint? (1), Coastal Grey Box (1)
Creekline Herb Rich Woodland 63 Mountain Grey Gum (51), Messmate (5), Yellow Stringybark (4), Narrow Leaf Peppermint (1), Yertchuk (1), Apple Top Box (1)
Lowland Forest 34 Mountain Grey Gum (14), Yertchuk (8), Messmate (6), Yellow Stringybark (3), Manna Gum (1), Apple Top Box (1), Swamp Gum (1)
Lowland Forest (should be mapped as Creekline Herb Rich Woodland) 10 Mountain Grey Gum (8), Messmate (2)
Plains Grassy Woodland 73 Yellow Stringybark (31), Messmate (10), Mountain Grey Gum (9), Swamp Gum (6), Manna Gum (4), Coastal Grey Box (4), Apple Top Box (3), Yertchuk (2), But But (2), Shining Peppermint? (1), Narrow Leaf Peppermint (1)
Damp Forest 6 Mountain Grey Gum (5), Messmate (1)
Heathy Woodland 2 Yertchuk (2)
Clay Heathland 2 Yertchuk (2)
Clay Heathland (should be mapped as Creekline Herb Rich Woodland) 1 Mountain Grey Gum (1)
Riparian Forest 1 Manna Gum (1)

This discrepancy can be explained due to the fact that few Riparian areas fitted into the survey grid points. The surveyed trees at survey points were dominated by Plains Grassy Woodland (53.5%) and Lowland Forest (27.6%). By comparison Creekline Herb Rich Woodland sites contributed to only 4.2% of survey points, with Riparian Scrub 7.6% of trees surveyed at survey points.

The lack of survey sites in the narrow creek lines and riparian areas was the major factor in investigating creek lines and surveying trees for scats outside of the survey grid system. This has biased the survey results towards Mountain Grey Gum and Swamp Gum, but by not doing this, the significance of these areas would have been understated.

Perhaps if RAPID SAT was to be used again site surveys at 250 metres or even 100 metres would give a more accurate picture of this forest.

Strzelecki koala map (another FoE project), has identified 13 koala “hotspots red numbers” at Mullungdung with only three occurring in the absence of Mountain Grey Gum. Two of the three "hotspots" were dominated by Swamp Gum, with the outlier "hotspot" dominated by Yellow Stringybark.

Population Estimation

FoE has come up with a possible koala population at Mullungdung of ~600 animals. These estimates are assumptions and have not been scientifically verified. There are three types of population estimates used and these assumptions may well have overestimated population numbers as they refer more forests in the Strzelecki Bioregion where soils may be of better leaf nutrient quality.

Ecological Vegetation Class Koala Estimate (maximum) EVC type in Hectares* (not all nearby forests included in table)
Creekline Herb Rich Woodland 92 464
Riparian Scrub 118 3,021
Lowland Forest/Plains Grassy Woodland 395 14,780
Damp Forest 10 101
Clay Heathland 5 444
Riparian Forest ? 17
Heathy Woodland Marginal 3,422
Sedge Wetland ? 85

Phillips/Allen 2014 gave a koala population estimation in the best of the Strzelecki Ranges (3,000 hectares) of 0.25 koalas per hectare. A further estimation (Phillips/Wallis 2016) over a wider 10,500 hectares (including the 3,000 hectares surveyed in 2014), of more fragmented and more typical habitat of the Strzelecki Ranges and Gippsland Plains saw this number fall away significantly to 0.09 koalas per hectare.

It could also be argued that for much of the Strzelecki/Gippsland Plains bioregions, away from the best koala habitat and Preferred Koala Feed Trees (PKFT’s), an estimate of koala numbers is closer to 0.02 koalas per hectare or one koala every 50 hectares.

If one considers Creekline Herb Rich Woodland (CHRW) covers about 464ha at Mullungdung and if one uses the estimation of Phillips/Allen at 0.25koalas/ha in the highest quality vegetation in the Strzelecki's, that could mean a population of 116 koalas in CHRW at Mullungdung. However, ~40% of CHRW tributaries had limited number of scats and PKFT's, meaning ~280ha of CHRW would be of highest quality, possibly meaning 70 koalas, with lower levels in the remaining 184ha. If 0.09 koalas/ha is used for the lower quality CHRW, that could mean an additional 17 animals, making a total of 87 animals in CHRW at Mullungdung.

This is complicated again with mis-classifcation of CHRW as Lowland Forest due to inaccuracies of EVC mapping at the headwaters of Morris Creek. Perhaps 20ha of Lowland Forest then should be listed at CHRW which would increase the number of koalas to 92 animals.

Although 3,000 hectares of Mullungdung have been mapped as riparian scrub EVC, a large percentage (perhaps as high as 50%) has limited and even no eucalypts present. Some riparian scrub should also probably be mapped as CHRW due to dominance of Mountain Grey Gum. Perhaps 200 hectares of Riparian Scrub could therefore sustain a koala population of 0.25koalas/ha. Meaning another 50 animals. Another 600 hectares of riparian scrub appears to have a lower koala density probably closer to 0.09 koalas/ha, possibly meaning another 54 animals, with the remaining riparian scrub with eucalypts, perhaps 700ha, may contain a lower population density of 0.02 koalas/ha or 14 animals.

Surrounding Lowland forest and Plains Grassy Forest in close vicinity to the best quality CHRW and Riparian Scrub would again see a higher number of koalas. This would probably amount to 1500 hectares. If the 0.09 koalas/ha is used this would equate to 135 animals.

Most the remaining Lowland Forest and Plains Grassy Forest ~13,000ha would probably have a koala population closer to 0.02 koalas/ha, possibly meaning 260 koalas.

Heathy woodland was not closely surveyed during the project except at a few sites. Few signs of koalas were present at sites surveyed and it was PKFT's were not present in this forest type.

FoE estimates a koala population at Mullungdung of approximately 600 animals, with riparian areas and forests near riparian forests accounting for perhaps 57% of the Mullungdung koala population in ~14% of the forest area.

Source of above image: “p20 Coefficient of variation for the predicted density of Koalas across Victoria in both native forest and woodland (A). The coefficient of variation is the standard deviation of the estimate divided by the estimate and hence is a measure of relative precision.” Modelling Koala Abundance Across Victoria October 2020.

The map above shows an estimated koala population by the state government in 2020, with Mullungdung circled in red. The State was apparently estimating koala numbers between 0.2–0.4 koalas/ha (green areas) at Mullungdung. Some areas (light blue) were estimated at 0.4-0.6ha.  The green area appears to take in the northern section of Mullungdung (5,000 hectares), where FoE found no sign of koala activity.

25,000 hectares of eucalypt at 0.2 koalas/ha would equate to 5,000 koalas at Mullungdung or a population 8 times higher than FoE's estimates. 0.4 koalas/ha would mean a total population 16 times higher than FoE's estimate.

Scats in regards to forest zoning and reserves

FoE found koala scats in ~10,000ha of forest (assessed by 100 hectare map grid), with >5 scats found within 100ha grid occurring over 2500ha. Surveys were not conducted across the entire forest with some key areas (eg Heathy Woodland) missing out due to budget constraints and access issues.

20% of all scats were found within Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve, with another 1% found in other Reserved areas. By far the most scats 55%, were found in Special Protection Zones, with an additional 24% found within General Management Zones.

Now that native forest logging has stopped in Eastern Victoria, the logging threat in GMZ’s has diminished for the time being. One particular logging coupe of concern was 449-502-0004 in the south western corner of the forest where large numbers of scats were found in the absence of Mountain Grey Gums, although some Swamp Gums were present.

Clearly then, the existing reserve system protects only 21% of all koala locations, meaning that the bulk of koala locations could achieve higher protection status by increasing reserved land immediately, by reserving SPZ’s, this would increase koala protected areas to 76%. Full reserve status for GMZ areas would guarantee 100% protection. Responsibility for managing these areas would then be with Parks Victoria.

The easiest option therefore would immediately convert SPZ’s to Reserve, including 1,000+ hectares of GMZ areas that sustain large numbers of koalas and PKFT's.

Its clear that koalas aren’t adequately being protected by the existing Reserve System. Only 20% being found in areas reserved.

Other Issues


Fire Map (excluding burn offs) going back to 1927.

The darkest blue on this map represents fires in the 2010’s. It is interesting to note that a large portion of the Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve has been burnt in the past 20 years including a current koala “hotspot” and key tributary of Morris Creek where 20 scats were found in September 2022. From field observations many of the larger Mountain Grey Gums survived these fires. Other older riparian areas in the Reserve, west of Massey Road for instance appear not to have been burnt. Perhaps the intensity of the fire lessened considerably as it burnt into riparian areas and larger trees.

Other key areas of Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve have not burnt for almost 100 years (southern section burnt in 1980’s), nor has a large expanse of forest south of Shields/Pogues Road.

Some areas burnt in the 2010’s were positive for koala scats, however it is unknown regarding the intensity of these fires or if they burnt key riparian areas. Key koala areas eg north of Jeffs Track don’t appear to have been burnt since the 1970’s.

It is imperative that key riparian areas of Mullungdung be protected from fire and burnoffs. Now that multiple koala locations have been added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, fire managers will have to take into account many more potential risks to koalas during burn-offs.

Firewood collection zones at Mullungdung from March 1 to June 30 2024. Firewood collection is restricted to within 50 meters from the road edge. Approximately 21 koala scats were located 50 metres from roads in this image. From all three firewood zones listed between March 1 2024 to June 30 2024, 8.4% of all scats were located 50 metres from roadsides that appear in the 2024 firewood cutting zones.

Approximately 2 koala scats were located 50 metres from roads in this image.

Approximately 7 koala scats were located 50 metres from roads in this image. The forest just north of Williams Road, was identified as a koala hotspot.


ARKS (Areas of Regional Significance) is the basis of the NSW koala conservation strategy. In NSW it is considered that 4,000ha to 5,000ha of habitat is required to sustain a koala population of 500 into the long term. Looking at South Gippsland, there may be only a handful of potential ARKS in the region, of which Mullungdung is probably the prime candidate. For example in 2023 Biolink identified nine ARKs in the vicinity of Morwell National Park and the Brataualung Forest Park, yet only one, Morwell 1 would be viable of maintaining a long term koala population. The Victorian Government does not use the ARKS system.


Local campaigners have also been investigating the significance of Mullungdung forest for Endangered Southern Greater Gliders. 25 sightings, or close to 50% lie outside of Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve with ~30% found in current GMZ areas. Interestingly glider populations appear consistent in some of the same EVC and Riparian locations where koalas are also present. It appears that Mountain Grey Gum is a key species for Gliders too.  Spotligting has also found species such as Southern Boobook, Owlet Nightjar, White Throated Nightjar and Powerful Owl. Spotlighting surveys have been restricted mainly to roadsides. The amount of Gliders could be far greater if surveys were conducted further into the forest away from roads.

The greater glider is the largest gliding Australian mammal.(Photo: Elizabeth Parsons)

Koala Genetics

Wedrowicz 2018 highlighting the scattering of Strzelecki koala genome and evidence that Mullungdung Forest contains the Strzelecki koala genome.

Mullungdung and surrounds appear to be dominated by the C6 cluster, although samples from Mullungdung appear to be limited. Mullungdung also appears to be less diverse than Morwell National Park and surrounds, where 5 sub-groupings/clusters are apparent.  Fine scale population structure in SG was therefore investigated using GENELAND, where seven population clusters were inferred. Six spatially well-defined population clusters with more than five assigned individuals  were identified.”

Reserve options for Mullungdung

Feb 28 2024: Members of the Yarram Yarram/Woodside Land Care Network visiting a site at Mullungdung, after a meeting in Woodside to discuss FoE's koala surveys reports and options for to extend reserve option at Mullungdung.

Mullungdung has approximately 900 indigenous species including 52 species that are listed under the FFG Act including almost 30 that are endangered or critically endangered.

Because of Victoria's unique koala translocation program, koalas are not listed under the FFG act, due to large populations of translocated animals, particularly in the south west of the state. Unlike other koalas, the Strzelecki/South Gippsland koalas are not the result of Victoria's translocation program which has also led to inbreeding. FoE estimates as few as 2,500 Strzelecki/South Gippsland koalas remain or 0.5% of the estimated koala population remaining in Victoria.

Friends of the Earth urges that the state government act to not only reserve the unique koala population at Mullungdung but the myriad of other species as well. A consultation process should begin to determine how Mullungdung and Won Wron forests will be protected into the long term.

Different Reserve options in Victoria that could apply to Mullungdung include:

National Park, State Park, Regional Park, Nature Conservation Reserve, Wildlife Reserve, Forest Park

Anthony Amis February 2024.

Any help with donations to keep our koala work ongoing are always appreciated.


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