An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.
December 2023
Subscribe here: https://mailchi.mp/808fc4af1ee0/koala-news-science


ACT government release plan to protect koala habitats 14 December
Though there are no known populations of koalas in the ACT, the territory is planning ahead, with ambitious timelines and triggers in their new plan, including restoration of priority habitats by 2028. The plan also includes identification of future habitat under climate change scenarios and protection of climate refugia. ACT Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said “The only way to protect koalas is to protect all remaining koala habitat wherever it is”


Global interest in slow progress of Great Koala NP NSW 6 December
A summary article about the issue has been published worldwide.

A step-by-step guide to using audio recorders for koalas
Koala Clancy Foundation have produced this guide for citizen science and conservation groups

$200,000 for NSW south coast koalas 11 December
The Coastwatchers Association have been successful in applying for a grant for drone monitoring, weed removal and tree planting for koalas in the Eurobodalla region, NSW.

Petition against light show at wildlife sanctuary, Mornington Peninsula VIC 29 December
Mornington Peninsula Shire have agreed to host the Harry Potter sound and light show at The Briars Wildlife Sanctuary, in an area home to koalas. An estimated 200,000 visitors will walk through the sanctuary at night The petition is at 6,200+ signatures.

Clarence Valley seeking landowners for koala tree planting NSW 1 January
Clarence Valley Koala Working Group have already planted over 9000 trees since they began in 2021.

Clarence Valley now has a native plants website too: https://www.clarencevalleynativeplants.com.au/

New AI smart sensor triggers koala audio recording NSW 4 December
A trial has begun of a new sensor that activates an audio recorder to record when a koala bellow is detected. The device has been developed by Western Sydney University.

Toowoomba highway proposal scrapped due to community outcry QLD 4 December
The proposed Toowoomba North-South Corridor will not proceed due to overwhelming community submissions, partly concerned for wildlife.


NSW Koala summit to be held 22 March 2024
Summit attendance is by invitation only.

New facebook group for sharing insights on koala drone technology
The new private group Koala & Wildlife Thermal Drone Projects is available for groups interested in/currently conducting drone surveys.


Latest Koala Science


Lott, M.J., Frankham, G.J., Eldridge, M.D., Alquezar-Planas, D.E., Donnelly, L., Zenger, K.R., Leigh, K.A., Kjeldsen, S.R., Field, M.A., Lemon, J. and Lunney, D., 2023. Reversing the decline of threatened koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations in New South Wales: Using genomics to define meaningful conservation goals. bioRxiv, pp.2023-12. https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.12.03.569474

Genetic management is a critical component of threatened species conservation. Understanding spatial patterns of genetic diversity is essential for evaluating the resilience of fragmented populations to accelerating anthropogenic threats. Nowhere is this more relevant than on the Australian continent, which is experiencing an ongoing loss of biodiversity that exceeds any other developed nation. Using a proprietary genome complexity reduction-based method (DArTSeq), we generated a data set of 3,239 high quality Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) to investigate spatial patterns and indices of genetic diversity in the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), a highly specialised folivorous marsupial that is experiencing rapid and widespread population declines across much of its former range. Our findings demonstrate that current management divisions across the state of New South Wales (NSW) do not fully represent the distribution of genetic diversity among extant koala populations, and that care must be taken to ensure that translocation paradigms based on these frameworks do not inadvertently restrict gene flow between populations and regions that were historically interconnected. We also recommend that koala populations should be prioritised for conservation action based on the scale and severity of the threatening processes that they are currently faced with, rather than placing too much emphasis on their perceived value (e.g., as reservoirs of potentially adaptive alleles), as our data indicate that existing genetic variation in koalas is primarily partitioned amongst individual animals. As such, the extirpation of koalas from any part of their range represents a potentially critical reduction of genetic diversity for this iconic Australian species.


Stott, E.K., Nie, S., Williamson, N.A. and Skerratt, L.F., 2023. Free drug percentage of moxidectin declines with increasing concentrations in the serum of marsupials. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, p.100899.

Moxidectin (MOX) is a macrocyclic lactone used to eliminate endo and ectoparasites in many mammalian species. It is notably the active ingredient of the anti-parasitic drug Cydectin®, manufactured by Virbac, and is frequently used to treat sarcoptic mange in Australian wildlife. Protein binding plays a significant role in the efficacy of a drug, as the unbound/free drug in plasma ultimately reflects the pharmacologically relevant concentration. This study aimed to investigate the free drug percentage of Moxidectin after in vitro spiking into the sera of four sarcoptic mange-susceptible Australian wildlife species; the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), the bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus), the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), and the mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus cunninghami). Three concentration points of MOX were tested for each individual: 20 pg/μL, 100 pg/μL and 500 pg/μL. Serum from five individuals of each species underwent an equilibrium dialysis followed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). The results showed an atypical concentration dependent binding across all species, where free drug percentage decreased as MOX concentration increased. In addition, wombats showed significantly lower free drug levels. These findings call for further research into the mechanisms of moxidectin protein binding to help understand MOX pharmacokinetics in marsupials.


Dexter, C.E., Scott, J., Blacker, A.R.F., Appleby, R.G., Kerlin, D.H. and Jones, D.N., 2023. Koalas in space and time: Lessons from 20 years of vehicle‐strike trends and hot spots in South East Queensland. Austral Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/aec.13465

The localized clustering of wildlife vehicle-strike in space and time, often called ‘hot spots’, are commonly used to guide placement of road mitigation installations. We interrogated koala vehicle-strike data across a 20-year period between 1997 and 2016, examining trends in identified hot spots. We found that hot spots were not static and decline or emerge in line with the resultant pressures (e.g., from development and associated traffic increases) being exerted on koala populations within the surrounding landscape. We suggest that there is likely to be a relationship between hot spots waning over time and localized extinction of koalas. We feel strategies that solely focus on hot spot intervention will do little to halt and reverse the significant decline in the koala population across South East Queensland because they are almost always retrospective. It is imperative that regional wildlife movement solutions, around and across roads, are appropriately planned and implemented ahead of time (i.e., during initial construction/developmental expansion), if they are to serve as effective mitigation for remaining local koala population across South East Queensland. We caution against recommending mitigation based solely on historical vehicle-strike data without considering contemporary population, movement and behavioural data.


Woinarski, J.C., Garnett, S.T. and Zander, K.K., 2023. Social valuation of biodiversity relative to other types of assets at risk in wildfire. Conservation biology.

Environmental crises, such as wildfires, can cause major losses of human life, infrastructure, biodiversity and cultural values. In many such situations, incident controllers must make fateful choices about what to protect – and hence what to abandon. Conventionally, human life is prioritized ahead of property, with biodiversity last. With increasing incidence and severity of environmental crises, such prioritization will lead to a recurring pattern of acute biodiversity losses, including extinctions. We investigated Australian social attitudes to this dilemma, to consider whether existing policies and protocols for asset prioritization reflect community values. We used best-worst scaling to assess preferences across a set of 11 assets representing human life, infrastructure, biodiversity and cultural values. Survey respondents overwhelmingly prioritized protection of a single human life, even if that choice resulted in extinction of other species. Inanimate (replaceable) objects were accorded lowest priority. Amongst biodiversity assets, most respondents ranked protecting a population of the iconic koala ahead of preventing the extinction of a snail and a plant species. Women showed more preference than men for protecting koalas, wallabies and sheep, and less preference for protecting a house, shed, shrub and rock carving; Indigenous people showed more preference for Indigenous cultural assets. These results variably support current policy, in that they emphasize the importance the community places on protection of human life, but results diverge from conventional practice in rating some biodiversity assets ahead of infrastructure. The preference for protecting a population of koalas ahead of action taken to prevent the extinction of an invertebrate and plant species corroborates previous research reporting biases in the way people value nature. If non-charismatic species are not to be treated as expendable, then the case for preventing their extinction needs to be better made to the community. Given the increasing global incidence of high severity wildfires, further sampling of societal preferences amongst diverse asset types is warranted, with results from such sampling then informing planning, policy and practice relating to wildfire and other catastrophic events. Other pre-emptive targeted management actions (such as translocations) will be needed to conserve biodiversity likely to be imperilled by wildfires, and especially so for non-iconic species.


Previous Koala News & Science here: https://www.wildkoaladay.com.au/koala-news-science/koala-news-science-november-2023/
Written by Janine Duffy President, Koala Clancy Foundation.
with support from Cheryl Egan, Organiser, Wild Koala Day.
Please send your positive, important news & publications to president@koalaclancyfoundation.org.au before 29th of each month for possible inclusion.