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    The koalas are coming!

    Koala seen by a Landholder at Herbert ParkSouthern New England Landcare engaged specialist ecologists to survey 11 participating landholder sites for signs of our local iconic species, the Koala and Eastern Spotted-tailed Quoll. The survey was undertaken over the summer months by professional ecologist Steve Debus with assistance from PhD student Heidi Kolkert. Surveys were undertaken on the basis of tree species present (for koala food) and the occurrence of logs or rocky landscapes preferred by Quolls, along with habitat assessment, call playback, spotlighting and camera trap detection.

    Results show koalas are present on eight out of the 11 properties surveyed. The results were mostly supported by scratches and scats (droppings), although one koala was detected by call playback (a male responding to the artificial call).

    Interestingly, the results were all positive for the sites that contained high value remnant vegetation containing primary koala feed trees and habitat. One koala was sighted by a landholder and captured by camera.

    No Quolls were detected, but are likely to occur in the vicinity of properties where there is potential for enhanced connectivity with existing reserves (Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and Imbota Nature Reserve). SNELCC has since been contacted by a small number of landholders who have had signs or sightings of quolls on their property (mostly around the Wollomombi area).

    No koalas or quolls were detected by the remote cameras. However, the detection of a probable Sugar Glider and a Brushtail Possum, a Wallaroo and Bearded Dragon on a few of the properties indicate valuable wildlife habitat values at these sites.

    The field survey results, together with landholder sightings, suggest that there were fairly recent occurrences of probably itinerant individual koala(s) through key remnant corridors and a potential resident though wide-ranging koala population, at low density, in the vicinity of Yina Nature Reserve and adjacent properties. The connected bushland between Donald Road, Herbert Park Road and Rockvale Road is also a key habitat corridor with koalas recorded on properties in and adjacent to this area.

    In conclusion, koala habitat usage appears to be highest where remnants are large and well-connected, and where the woodland is dense and composed of multiple species of koala food trees. Potential habitat that is isolated, but where habitat and connectivity would be enhanced by plantings of koala food and shelter trees, in conjunction with a community program to increase connectivity are desirable to assist local koala populations.

    Overall, the properties where koalas and other arboreal mammals (possums, gliders) were detected are indicative of high wildlife values, which could be improved with suitable plantings to provide food, shelter and connectivity.

    This project has been funded through the NSW Environmental Trust.

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