KOALA NEWS & SCIENCE

An informative monthly newsletter about successes & important announcements in koala conservation, and the latest scientific publications about koalas.

June, 2020

NSW Parliamentary Inquiry releases findings: habitat loss is biggest threat to koalas 30 June

The year-long multi party inquiry calls for urgent government protection of koala habitat, and says that current strategies are not working.  The Guardian

Koala tree planting season begins on Victoria’s Western Plains 21 June

Koala Clancy Foundation started their biggest tree planting season yet, with 1000 trees on the Moorabool River on 21 & 27 June. Target: 15,000 trees before mid September. Koala Clancy

New citizen science platform to track koalas & other wildlife in NSW 20 June

DigiVol launched by NSW government Saving Our Species program Sydney Morning Herald 

New AI & drones to assess koala population on Kangaroo Island SA 18 June

QUT researchers will use artificial intelligence & infra red on drones to count surviving koalas after bushfires. Port Pirie Recorder

Bangalow Koalas have planted 50,000 koala trees in 27 months in northern NSW 12 June

6000 trees on Pat Rafter’s property in northern rivers gets the group to 50,000 trees since March 2018 Echo Net Daily

Koala Smart education program for NSW schools 9 June

Lions Club and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital have released the new version of a curriculum-ready program teaching school children about threatened species, particularly koalas.
Port Macquarie News and Koala Smart

Groups call for halt to logging in Key Koala Habitat Zones, northern NSW 31 May

FOI sought by Bellingen Environment Centre has revealed that NSW government plans to log areas assessed by their own agencies as Key Koala Habitat Zones Sydney Morning Herald

Call for landowners to plant koala habitat in Tamworth area NSW 30 May

NSW government Saving Our Species program second round of grants to restore 30 ha of koala habitat around Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains Northern Daily Leader

Landcare NSW to plant 100,000 trees around Sydney in 2.5 years NSW 27 May

Trees will be planted mostly across Western Sydney by Landcare groups, with a further 72,000 planted by Greening Australia in parks & schools Landcare NSW

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LATEST KOALA SCIENCE

Ashman, K.R., Page, N.R. and Whisson, D.A. (2020), Ranging Behavior of an Arboreal Marsupial in a Plantation Landscape. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.  https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jwmg.21885

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Forests are becoming increasingly fragmented, primarily because of their conversion to production landscapes. Animals occupying modified landscapes may need to expand their ranges and move longer distances between remnant forest patches to find resources. The establishment of plantations in fragmented landscapes, however, may provide complementary habitat for wildlife and improve connectivity, reducing the amount of movement required. Our objective was to determine the influence of plantations on koala (Phascolarctos cinereus ) habitat use and test 2 competing hypotheses on the relationship between plantations and range size. We deployed global positioning system and very high frequency collars on 40 koalas in 2 landscapes (plantation and non‐plantation) in Victoria, Australia. From 68,216 tracking points collected over an 8‐month period, we calculated and compared seasonal home range size and habitat use between landscapes. There was no difference in range size, the size and number of core use areas, or the distance between core use areas between plantation and non‐plantation landscapes. Plantations extend existing koala habitat and facilitate koala movement through a landscape; however, remnant native vegetation is still more frequently used. Consequently, native vegetation (even fragmented, linear roadside vegetation) is of high conservation importance for the persistence of koalas in modified landscapes. © 2020 The Wildlife Society.

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Bonnie L Quigley, Peter Timms, Helping koalas battle disease – Recent advances in Chlamydia and Koala Retrovirus (KoRV) disease understanding and treatment in koalas, FEMS Microbiology Reviews, , fuaa024, https://doi.org/10.1093/femsre/fuaa024

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The iconic Australian marsupial, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), has suffered dramatic population declines as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, vehicle collision mortality, dog attacks, bushfires and climate change. In 2012, koalas were officially declared vulnerable by the Australian government and listed as a threatened species. In response, research into diseases affecting koalas has expanded rapidly. The two major pathogens affecting koalas are Chlamydia pecorum, leading to chlamydial disease, and Koala Retrovirus (KoRV). In the last eight years, these pathogens and their diseases have received focused study regarding their sources, genetics, prevalence, disease presentation and transmission. This has led to vast improvements in pathogen detection and treatment, including the ongoing development of vaccines for each as a management and control strategy. This review will summarize and highlight the important advances made in understanding and combating C. pecorum and KoRV in koalas, since they were declared a threatened species. With complementary advances having also been made from the koala genome sequence and in our understanding of the koala immune system, we are primed to make a significant positive impact on koala health into the future.

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KOALA SCIENCE in brief

Rivera, Paola 2020, Factors driving the distribution of the koala in a modified landscape, B.Science (Hons) thesis, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University. Retrieved from: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30139130

Key results: Forest cover had a positive influence on koala site occupancy, whereas road length had a negative effect. There was an interaction effect of fragmentation and daytime noise. In highly fragmented landscapes, site occupancy decreased with increasing noise. In landscapes with low fragmentation, daytime noise had no influence. The proportion of preferred food trees at a site, and watercourse length in the landscape also had no effect on koala site occupancy.
Conclusions: Koalas are most likely to be present in landscapes with at least 60% forest cover, few roads and no anthropogenic noise.

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FEATURE PAPER

Ellis W, FitzGibbon S, Pye G, Whipple B, Barth B, Johnston S, et al. (2015) The Role of Bioacoustic Signals in Koala Sexual Selection: Insights from Seasonal Patterns of Associations Revealed with GPS-Proximity Units. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0130657. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130657

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Despite being a charismatic and well-known species, the social system of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus—the only extant member of the family Phascolarctidae) is poorly known and much of the koala’s sociality and mating behaviors remain un-quantified. We evaluated these using proximity logging-GPS enabled tracking collars on wild koalas and discuss their implications for the mating system of this species. The frequency and duration of male-female encounters increased during the breeding season, with male-male encounters quite uncommon, suggesting little direct mating competition. By comparison, female-female interactions were very common across both seasons. Body mass of males was not correlated with their interactions with females during the breeding season, although male size is associated with a variety of acoustic parameters indicating individuality. We hypothesise that vocal advertising reduces the likelihood of male-male encounters in the breeding season while increasing the rate of male-female encounters. We suggest that male mating-season bellows function to reduce physical confrontations with other males allowing them to space themselves apart, while, at the same time, attracting females. We conclude that indirect male-male competition, female mate choice, and possibly female competition, mediate sexual selection in koalas.