Considerable resources are invested in conserving species that may be locally, but not globally, threatened. There are a variety of motivations for such parochial conservation practices and policies, though often they are likely to be ineffective or inefficient in achieving meaningful conservation outcomes at either local or broad scales. We examine the koala in Australia as a case study of this problem as it is a species that is highly valued by the public, is only threatened over a portion of its range, and yet attracts considerable conservation effort in the portions of its range where it is in decline, especially in urban areas. We identify several approaches to koala conservation that have been favoured for many years despite the fact that they are likely to be ineffective at advancing koala conservation and suggest possible reasons for their continued use. We also identify opportunities for relatively cost-effective rural conservation that have not been adequately explored. Explicitly clarifying specific goals and objectives of conservation actions and evaluating of their efficacy would facilitate more effective prioritisation of investment of resources to improve conservation outcomes.