Daylight saving could reduce the number of koala killed by cars in the Redlands, say UQ researchers

DANGEROUS BUSINESS: A koala crosses a road, right near that koala warning sign.

DANGEROUS BUSINESS: A koala crosses a road, right near that koala warning sign.

A UNIVERSITY of Queensland-led study has found that adopting daylight saving in south east Queensland could help koala conservation.

Researchers tracked wild koalas and compared their movements with traffic patterns on roads where they were often killed. 

Researcher Robbie Wilson said the study found daylight saving would decrease car collisions with koalas by eight per cent on weekdays and 11 per cent on weekends.

“This is achieved by simply shifting the timing of traffic relative to darkness,” Associate Professor Wilson said.

“Daylight saving time could reduce collisions with nocturnal wildlife (animals that are active at night) because it would still be light when commuters drive home.

“Collisions with wildlife are most likely to occur during twilight or darkness.”

The flipside of this work was that it was not known how daylight saving would impact on diurnal animals (those active in the daytime) like snakes, lizards and birds.

Koala numbers have declined in the greater Brisbane region, including the Redlands, by 80 per cent in the past 20 years, due to cars, dogs and disease.

“Other nocturnal animals, such as kangaroos and wallabies, could also benefit from a switch to daylight saving, which could in turn improve the safety of commuters,” Dr Wilson said.

Co-researcher Bill Ellis said cars were responsible for hundreds of koala deaths annually.

“Anything that can reduce the number of cars on the road when nocturnal animals begin moving around is a good thing, and we wondered if daylight saving might be a factor,’’ he said.

Dr Wilson, who also worked with Sean Fitzgibbon on the project, said results showed the importance of understanding the behaviour of animals in the wild.

“If we can reduce the number of animals hit on the roads by making a simple change like this, then conservation and road safety should become part of the debate on daylight saving,” Dr Wilson said.

The study was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant and  San Diego Zoo and featured work by Central Queensland, Kyoto and Griffith universities, Australia Zoo and the NSW Environment Department.

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