Changing koala history, to suit business as usual management

Update number two, from the Office of Environment and Heritage ‘Saving our Species’ program, has an article titled ‘Some good news about koalas on the NSW South Coast’.

Written by the OE&H’s South East Ecosystems and Threatened Species Team’s Chris Allen, the koala surveys have now ‘achieved the milestone of assessing 1000 grid-sites across 35,000 hectares of national park, state forests and private land.’

Allen’s personal submission to the Senate inquiry during 2011 indicates ” . . .Survey teams have searched for Koala pellets through bush litter under more than 27,000 trees at more than 900 gridsites, enabling the assessment of Koala distribution and abundance over more than 35,000 ha of public and privately-owned forests.”

According to the article, the surveys have ‘guided the planning for a substantial fuel reduction program undertaken by national parks’. However, the response from the OE&H’s Michael Saxon at the time of the substantial fuel reduction program was, “My group does not have any role in either the planning or approval of hazard reduction on Park”.

Also in his senate submission Allen states ” . . . Fuel reduction burning is considered to be threat to Koalas in the NSW Koala Recovery Plan (DECCW 2008). Fire applied in dense regrowth areas is likely to be more of a threat because of the difficulty in keeping flame height low in these areas.”

Chris Allen and NPWS Far South Coast Region are apparently, now managing the Corridors and Core Habitat for Koalas Project, with additional funding from the SoS program. Good news for them, although it seems necessary to believe that random burning is not a reason behind the historic decline of koalas in National Parks, and the NPWS’s management isn’t business as usual.

koala numbers

Up on the tablelands ABC radio reports on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council’s ongoing attempts to establish a management plan for the ‘unique’ bark eating koalas, now estimated to be up to 900 animals.  This is a substantial increase on the previous estimate of 80 to 320 koalas, again in Chris Allen’s senate submission.

As indicated in the chart above, adapted from “The Koala: Natural History, Conservation and Management” (1999), starting with 15 female koalas, those without Chlamydia can rapidly increase in numbers, should habitat be available.

The Council have engaged Greenloaning Biostudies, based in Lismore, to produce a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPoM). The consultants have been undertaking a survey and are interested in information on koalas prior to 1996, the year of the first confirmed sighting, with the following note.

The period from 1996 to the present represents three Koala generations and is considered as the recent and current timeframe. Data from the period prior to 1996 is regarded as historical data.

So I put in a brief submission, pointing out that koalas records in the area begin in the mid 1980’s and most of these can be attributed to then State Forests NSW. Coupled with the koala skulls, found during surveys in 1997 and 1999, and suggestions that the bark eaters are not genetically similar to the coastal koalas, it seems likely  they were translocated, probably from an island population in Victoria.

According to Cooma-Monaro Shire councillor Craig Mitchell the CKPoM  ”  . . .  is about weighing up the rights of the people that own the land to do what they want with the land without actually compromising the koalas in any way.”

However, in this case it seems the people that own the land were compromised some time ago, but that’s history.

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