Conserving Koala Country

Conserving Koala Country

Friday, 16 October 2015

Culling koalas? Who would dare suggest such a thing?

Interestingly enough, some Queensland and New South Wales researchers have just published a paper suggesting that koalas be culled. Not just any koalas though; just those that are suffering terminal effects of Chlamydia and transmitting this disease to healthy koalas. Using computer simulations, they showed that this 'selective culling' approach would result in an increase in population size in 'The Koala Coast' population in Queensland as a result of reduced disease incidence.

Not surprisingly, their suggestion resulted in a little confusion in the media. Afterall, it wasn't that long ago that everyone was upset about 'culling' starving and extremely ill koalas at Cape Otway.

Today, I published an article about 'culling' koalas in The Conversation (http://theconversation.com/a-cull-could-help-save-koalas-from-chlamydia-if-we-allowed-it-49195). In short, I believe that culling should be available for managing koalas whether it be for disease management OR to address overabundance issues. The current 'no culling' policy has resulted in many koalas at Cape Otway suffering slow deaths due to starvation. Watching koalas die like this is horrific to witness. Although the thought of 'culling' healthy koalas doesn't entirely sit well with me (I love these animals), I would much prefer to see a few culled than to see an entire population suffer and a unique ecosystem disappear.

This is not to say that 'culling' should be used indiscriminately though. It should only be used when other approaches fail or aren't viable. Governments need to be more proactive in assessing management options in advance of problems occurring. If that had happened at Cape Otway, the population needing management would have been much smaller, fewer animals would have been affected, and a crisis situation averted.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Eavesdropping on koalas

Thanks to the generosity of Wildlife Acoustics, we will soon be eavesdropping on koala conversations. Wildlife Acoustics has provided me with some Songmeters that I will be deploying in a number of sites in the Otways. Songmeters are recorders that can be programmed to record whenever you want them to. These ones will be programmed to remotely record for 5 minutes per hour for up to a month, and capture the 'song' of any koalas vocalising at the time.

Queensland researchers already have shown that systematic recordings can be used to determine the timing of the breeding season. Our project will build on that by examining if there is a relationship between the frequency of bellows in recordings and the density of koalas (from visual surveys) in a site. If we find that there is a relationship, using Songmeter recorders may be a less time-consuming and more systematic way of monitoring koala populations throughout Victoria.

video
Koala 'Dave' singing

Many thanks to Wildlife Acoustics for supporting our research!