The NSW Government is investing a further $63,000 into its iconic koala project in a bid to better understand the often elusive marsupial across the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury local government areas.
The Blue Mountains Koala Project, which is being led by Dr Kellie Leigh from the not-for-profit organisation Science for Wildlife, is in partnership with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), universities and San Diego Zoo Global.
OEH’s Saving our Species senior team leader, Linda Bell, said the project is satellite tracking up to 10 koalas in areas where they have never been studied, to provide new insights into their tree use and habitat preferences, including their daily and seasonal movements across the region.
“Koala disease and koala genetics studies are also being conducted to better understand genetic diversity and relationships with other regional and national koala populations,” Ms Bell said.
“The Hawkesbury Local Government Area and lower Blue Mountains region supports known populations of koalas, and over the past 10 years community sightings of koalas in this region have increased.
“This suggests a potentially growing koala population and this study will provide invaluable information about where they are, what risks and threats they face and assist in developing measures to protect them,” said Ms Bell.
An important objective of this project is to map areas where koalas are seen around human development and to identify threat hotspots such as roads around Bell’s Line of Road, Kurrajong, Grose Vale, Colo Heights and the Great Western Highway.
Dr Leigh said the project was already revealing interesting insights into the individual personalities of the koalas they are currently tracking.
“We’re finding koalas are using unexpected habitats, particularly some of the males. One was regularly using such sandy soils that he was found sheltering in an Old Man Banksia tree,” Dr Leigh said.
OEH and Science for Wildlife is encouraging the local community to report any sightings of koalas across the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains Local Government Area through the below website and Facebook page.
If you see or hear a koala, please report your sighting on the Science For Wildlife website: http://scienceforwildlife.org/how-to-help/join-our-koala-project/, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook www.facebook.com/koalaspotters/.
The support for the Blue Mountains Koala Project complements the koala conservation work already supported by the NSW Government's flagship $100 million Saving our Species program.