Two and a half years after it began, the ‘Corridors and core habitat for koalas on the NSW Far South Coast’ project has released its first publicly available report, for the period July to December 2013. Scant on detail, frequently misleading, or just plain wrong, the OE&H report also provides an update on the plan to translocate koalas, from south Gippsland, to the South East National Park.
Rather than the expected ‘island koalas’, the report indicates “Agreement was reached with the Victorian Government for NSW OEH to undertake an assessment of the Strzelecki koala population as a possible source site for animals for translocation”. This aspect of the project ‘is well advanced and will be finalised in the next reporting period’, which is now.
As of March last year, areas adjacent to the release site were marked with ‘New Nomination’, and excluded from the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals. Putting one and one together, other areas for this new nomination should include the 2,800 ha, proposed as local koala moratorium areas. Unfortunately, these areas are to be revised, and negotiations with FCNSW on modified harvesting protocols for other areas, are still continuing with FCNSW.
Of course there is an expectation that every-one will believe this project is for the benefit of koalas, even though the evidence suggests otherwise. For example, and in addition to the significant trauma wild animals suffer, the result of removing koalas from their home-range, and releasing them elsewhere, invariably results in the animals attempting to return to their homes. Regrettably, because they don’t know which direction home is, they all take off in different directions.
In addition, there is the most likely reason koalas have become functionally extinct in the area, as indicated in the FCNSW die-back map of the new nomination area below.
The project has been collaborating with University of Queensland/CSIRO to develop koala habitat mapping. This has involved the collection imagery and leaf samples, was undertaken October 2013, with data analysis and delivery of a map product expected by June 2014. Unfortunately, as the project has not considered dieback , there is some concern that the imagery, and samples, were collected during a period of above average rainfall, so the outcomes will provide an unbalanced assessment.
The report does indicate “The project has been supporting survey and vegetation restoration work on private land adjacent to the identified koala activity areas. This component of the project is also using LiDAR data from the previous project stage to develop a vegetation condition map that will then be used to prioritise further areas for restoration.”
Like the mapping of habitat quality, methods to determine vegetation condition using LiDAR require detailed on ground information, to validate the LiDAR outputs. There is no evidence to suggest this has occurred, and it seems likely FCNSW would object, given that is what it was legally required to do, under the Regional Forest Agreements.