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Next Six Months Vital for Collecting Koala Scats

Friends of the Earth is urging anyone interested in the future of koalas to get involved in collecting koala scats over the next few months. The State Government's recent budget allocated money to better understand the genetic significance of the Strzelecki koala population. Federation University is in charge of the koala scat analysis, but they need samples from the Gippsland region to determine the extent and distribution of the Strzelecki koala. We have a window of up to April/May 2024 to get scat samples to them. The situation is urgent and this may be the best opportunity we will ever get to best understand the Strzelecki koala's range and genetics. We particularly need scats from the edges of the Strzelecki Ranges, 20 km to the west, north west, north and north east.

SKAT has put together this short video which helps explain the process of collecting koala scats. It is not difficult, but does have to be done correctly. It also requires some very basic equipment and technique. The following photos may also help explain the process.

To collect the scats you'll need: Some toothpicks and a small wedge of foam to stand the toothpicks in. To post the scats, small vitamin containers are useful. You'll also need a mobile phone or GPS to record the location of where the scats are from. If you don't have the GPS co-ordinates, an address will suffice or if in the bush, a road with approximate distance to the nearest crossroads should be ok. Keep an eye out for snakes if you are looking around trees, particularly in warmer weather. Keep a snake bandage with you and wear gators.

Scat location stages

 All Photos: Marcela Lehocka 

1. Koalas generally like larger trees and seem to be attracted to Eucalypts with paler bark. eg Mountain Grey Gum, Swamp Gum, Manna Gum, Red Gums. They will feed off a variety of trees, but in the Gippsland region these paler barked trees are most important. Generally speaking, the best chance of finding koala scats are within one metre of the base of the tree. Carefully look around the base of the tree, looking looking under bark and leaves.

2. Koala scats if they are fresh are usually greenish in colour. The one in this photo is quite fresh. As they get older their colour darkens and the surface of the scat can be darkish. A fresh scat can also look slightly dark. Scats are usually about 2-3cm in length. They can have slight ridges along their surface. They can also be mistaken for Brush Tail Possum scats, which can be a similar shape, are are often slimmer and slightly longer.


3. Don't pick up the scat in your hands. Your DNA can rub off onto the scat contaminating the sample. Pull out one of the toothpicks and press the toothpick into the scat. If the scat is fresh the toothpick will enter the scat quite easily. If the scat is older some pressure will need to be applied.


4. The scat in this image is about one week old and the surface of it had hardened.

5. The toothpick can then be inserted into the piece of foam that you have.

6. If there are a number of scats around the tree, collect as many as you can using the above process with each one. You might end up with 6 to 10 toothpicks inserted into your foam.

7. Sometimes it is useful to have a cover that make the scats more easy to transport. The cover in this photo was cut from PVC and the foam piece sits inside the PVC. If there is dirt or material on the scat do not wipe it off with your finger as this could contaminate the sample with your DNA.

8. If the scats are fresh you'll need to wait for a few days for the scats to dry out before posting them. If the scats are older with harder surfaces they can be placed immediately in your postage container. Old vitamin containers are useful for mailing koala scats in. Remember, not to touch the scat with your fingers.

9. Fit as many scats from the same tree into a container. If you have samples from different trees or areas, use a separate container for each of the samples.

10. Insert some scrunched up paper into the container to pack down the scats, so that they don't move around too much when being mailed. Some of the old vitamin containers also contain a desiccant satchel that can also be placed in the container to help with drying out. If the scats get mouldy they can't be analysed.

If you're lucky you'll even see a koala on your travels.

11. Remember to post the container with the location of where the scats were collected. If you don't have a GPS you can use your mobile phone. Go into Google Maps and press on the blue dot of the map that opens up. Your GPS location will then appear. If you are in a location without mobile reception you'll have to give an approximate road/postal address. Sometimes you can estimate how far you are from a nearby landmark or crossroads.

This video that we produced a couple of years ago may also be a help.

12. Post off the container to Kelly Smith, PO Box 261, Hastings, Victoria 3915. If you have any queries, or to let her know you have mailed some scats,  contact Kelly [email protected]


Looking for koala scats can also be fun and educational. This photo was taken at Morwell National Park in early October during a SKAT field trip.

In early October SKAT spoke at the South Gippsland Landcare Network's AGM. Cranky the Koala also made an appearance after being "AWOL" for 6 months.

If you want to help SKAT out with a donation, your help goes a very long way. Donations can be made here

For this project and recent SKAT videos FoE has been proudly supported by the Hamer Sprout Fund, a sub-fund of Australian Communities Foundation

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