Researchers will soon begin a hide-and-seek hunt for koalas between Armidale and Inverell and they are calling on the public to help. Recent surveys on the Northern Tablelands located koala populations in the Delungra, Armidale, Uralla, Walcha and Nowendoc areas and now the focus is on the western side of the Tablelands between Armidale, Guyra and Inverell.

“We need people to report koalas to us as soon as they see them so we can quickly get out and have a look at them”, says project leader David Carr from Stringybark Ecological. “We can send a person out to follow up on a report and they can see the type of trees the koalas are using, collect DNA from fresh scats and hopefully observe and photograph the animals”.

The information gained from the survey will tell us about koala distribution and the health of animals in this region. The project is funded by the NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage through the Saving Our Species program. It is coordinated by Stringybark Ecological and includes researchers from EcoGeoSpatial, JML Environmental, The Envirofactor, the University of New England and Department of Primary Industry.

Anyone seeing a koala in this area (see map) should contact Southern New England Landcare on 02 6772 9123 or karen.zirkler@snelandcare.org.au. Landcare will then dispatch one of the research team to the site as soon as possible. Researchers will carry out a quick vegetation survey, collect scat samples and take photos of any animals still in the area.

Koalas are listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under both NSW and Commonwealth environmental law. They have declined in numbers due to habitat loss, predation by dogs, vehicle strike, fire and climate extremes. The Northern Tablelands may be an important refuge for this iconic animal, but we don’t know a lot about them in this region.

Inverell Koalas low

Click the map to see a larger version

This project will be supplemented by a koala GPS-tracking project in the Armidale area centred around Mt Duval, also conducted by the same team. The tracking project will give researchers a better idea of the home ranges and activity of koalas in this area.

What will happen if we report a koala?

Firstly, landcare will contact one of the field team (David Carr, John Lemon or Wendy Hawes) and arrange for them to contact the person reporting the koala sighting. They will arrange a visit as soon as possible. Once on site, the researchers will take photos of the koala, collect fresh scats for DNA analysis, record latitude and longitude and do a quick vegetation survey. The vegetation survey aims to find what tree species and plant community types the koalas are using. The data will then be added to the NSW Wildlife Atlas (Bionet) and the Atlas of Living Australia.