Study sheds light on local koalas

A study of the movement of koalas within the Toondah Harbour area has unearthed some new and interesting results.

ON TRACK: Koala Action Group member Ken Rawlins prepares 'Scout' the koala for release at GJ Walter Park, Cleveland. Scout's monitoring device had fallen off and she was captured to replace the device. Photo: Hannah Baker

ON TRACK: Koala Action Group member Ken Rawlins prepares 'Scout' the koala for release at GJ Walter Park, Cleveland. Scout's monitoring device had fallen off and she was captured to replace the device. Photo: Hannah Baker

Eight koalas were fitted late last year with two tracking devices each – on the ankle and around the neck.

Koala Action Group President Debbie Pointing said the study had identified in detail the movements of each koala, including where they chose to cross roads, the social dynamics of the family and what habitat they spent most of their time in.

“We’ve discovered the home range or territory of the koalas is firmly within the Toondah Harbour development area,” Ms Pointing said.

She said the biggest surprise of the study so far was the types of trees the koalas were turning up in.

“Not only are we finding the koalas in their preferred blue gum tree, of which there are both significant and smaller younger trees in this region, we also saw that the koalas would extensively use rainforest-type trees during the day,” she said.

'Scout' the koala with GPS tracker attached around her neck prior to being released. Photo: Hannah Baker

'Scout' the koala with GPS tracker attached around her neck prior to being released. Photo: Hannah Baker

“So while they would eat in the eucalyptus tree, they would then move to non-eucalyptus trees to get more shelter from the harsh midday sun.”

Koala numbers have plummeted in the Redlands over the past 20 years, with 80 per cent lost, according to a state government report released last year.

A major part of the issue appeared to be development of prime coastal habitat.

The precinct faced further development pressure, with the proposed $1.3 billion harbour expansion.

Ms Pointing said the data would be vital when assessing future plans for the area.

“This data was taken on the fringe of the planned future development,” she said.

“What we’re trying to do is raise community awareness about the koalas that live here and to ensure that the trees they use for food and shelter are retained as part of the landscape design of construction works.

“A similar process happened here 15 years ago – a Blue Gum was saved from a unit development and has now become a pivotal nursery tree for local koalas and continues to be a source of pride for the community.”

The study has cost more than $30,000, with funding coming from council, the state government and public donations.

We'll continue talking with council and other parties to ensure this data informs any future decisions in the area - KAG President Debbie Pointing

This tracking map shows the movement of the Koalas within the region.

This tracking map shows the movement of the Koalas within the region.

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