It was an emotional and historic day for Port Stephens Koala Hospital (PSKH) on Friday when they released two rescued koalas back into their natural habitat near Trotters Lane at Bobs Farm.
Hospital CEO Ron Land said it had been years since two koalas - in this case young males Warwick, also known as Wazza, and Sheriffe - had been released at the same time.
Mr Land said that the release in the corridor behind Trotters Road on a plantation of land owned by Harbourside Haven was chosen as the closest habitat to where the koalas were found.
"Warwick, a sub adult male aged approximately 15 months old and weighing 3.8 kilo, came into care on February 19 having been rescued from Fenninghams Road at Bobs Farm," Mr Land said.
"Sherriff is also a sub adult male, aged approximately 12 months old and weighing 4.4 kilo. He was rescued on June 12 from the front doorway of a residence in Latitude One at Anna Bay. Last Friday's release is believed to be the first 'double' release in the past four years."
Mr Land said that it was vital that koalas were released in a habitat that can sustain them in their environment, that is close to home and safe.
He said that koala numbers in Port Stephens continued to decline due to, primarily, development. "Developments are the biggest issue causing the gradual decline in the koala population on both the Tomaree and Tilligerry peninsulas."
He emphasised that PSKH would only release koalas that have come into their care after being deemed by vets to be fit and healthy. "This is why the koala hospital is so important ... and this gives them their best chance for survival."
He said that PSKH had released 21 koalas, including two pouch joeys, in the past 12 months. "Without our facility, we would be gambling with the lives of the koalas that come into our care ... and the circumstances could be catastrophic."
Mr Land estimates there are no more than 250 koalas left within Port Stephens. "The smaller number of road deaths - which number four so far in 2021 - is reflective of the declining numbers.
"If we want to get serious about saving our iconic species we need to better scrutinise the number of developments in koala habitat."