Yesterday the Sydney Morning herald reported on the State Labor opposition environment spokeman Luke Foley who brought a koala into the ‘bearpit’and called on Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to add koalas to the threatened species list.
For their part the State government have announced a $100,000 NSW Environmental Trust grant to the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council that will assist in the development of a Koala Plan of Management for the shire.
In their press release the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Koala Recovery Project Coordinator Chris Allen indicates-
“During surveys, we record data including koala droppings, chewed bark and animal sightings and we collect samples where possible. Koala inbreeding is a problem in some parts of Australia, but researchers at Sydney University have so far identified two distinct gene pools and a relatively high level of variability within each in the Southern Tablelands koala population.”
While it’s unclear if bark eating is a trait shared by the ‘two distinct gene pools’ of koalas, the research, apparently undertaken by Associate Professor David Phalen of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, is yet to be made publicly available. Similarly unclear is if the research involved determining the disease status of the populations, if it did this information is also yet to be made publicly available.
However and from an ecological perspective it is logically inconsistent to have two genetically distinct koala populations within 80kl of each other in the same bioregion, in this case the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion. The koalas from Dignams to Wapengo are some 50 kl from those in the Cooma –Monaro Shire and closely related to the Strzelecki population, about 400kl to the southwest. The Strezleckis are a sub bioregion of the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion.
ABC regional report Cooma Monaro Shire Council’s Director of Environmental Services, Peter Smith as saying “Its a possibility they may be listed as an endangered species”, although no-one from the State government has said that.