Between December 2019 and July 2020, Environmental group, Friends of the Earth, carried out 200 koala surveys in the Strzelecki Ranges and Gippsland Region. The surveys hoped to better understand habitat utilisation by koalas in the region. The surveys add to other survey work conducted in the region between 2013-16.
Friends of the Earth believe that there may be as few as 1,500 of Victoria’s only endemic koalas remaining raising concerns for the future of the iconic animal.
The concerns come after the launch of the Koala Surveys: Strzelecki Ranges/Gippsland Regions December 2019 - July 2020 report.
The 203 surveys covered 5000 hectares with more surveys to be completed after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Friends of the Earth koala researcher, Anthony Amis said, “What I am seeing out there is really concerning, and requires urgent action from the Andrews government to protect these important animals.”
Exact population estimates cannot be estimated at this time, however Friends of the Earth believes that as little as 1500 koalas could remain from the original koala gene pool.
Anthony Amis explains, “There are two distinct koala populations in Victoria and South Australia. One is the endemic koala population consisting of the original gene pool that inhabits the Strzelecki Ranges and South Gippsland region and the second being translocated populations, across Victoria and South Australia, sourced from island populations from a limited gene pool. Friends of the Earth’s key interest is the animals from the original gene pool.”
“Environmental protection laws, such as the Victorian Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act, need to be changed, and then used to enact protections to ensure the long term survival of the Strzelecki koala. This will mean changing the act to include genetically diverse/endemic populations”
Positive findings from the new surveys included 13 new koala locations. The surveys also revealed survival of animals in Holey Plains State Park following the devastating fires of early 2019.
However the long term survival of these animals remains questionable.
An occupancy rate of 28% was calculated in 60 sites surveyed. “In a healthy koala population, occupancy rate should be around 50%, indicating that koalas in the region are moving back into habitat, following near extinction 100 years ago” said Friends of the Earth researcher Anthony Amis. The surveys also revealed a paucity of animals in Mullungdung State Forest and Alberton West State Forest.
Many threats to the koalas in the region still remain, including:
- Climate Change and increased risk of fire
- Forest Burn Offs in key koala habitat
- Ongoing habitat loss (though logging and clearing) and fragmentation
- Koala deaths due to cars, and attacks from dogs
Friends of the Earth will be hosting a forum at 7pm on 24th September to discuss the findings and what needs to be done to protect Victorian koalas.
For more information:
Friends of the Earth Koala Researcher
Ph: 0425 841 564