Cooma-Monaro Shire Council has released its draft Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management and as anticipated, it could do with some improvements and clarification. Arguably the most important aspect of the plan is detail on koala genetics, as uncertainty around this issue has been bubbling in the background for 18 years, or three kolala generations.
Regrettably this information isn’t in the CKPoM, rather it’s in a report found in the appendicesm written by OE&H Senior Threatened Species Officer Chris Allen. However, in a previous report on tablelands koalas (1999), Chris Allen made the following recommendation –
It is recommended that more surveys be undertaken to increase knowledge of the distribution of the Numerella Koalas and to gather further data to enable robust statistical analysis of preferred browse species. Genetic studies should be undertaken to 1) assess the relationship between this population and others in SENSW and Victoria; and 2) ascertain the level of inbreeding with this population.”
At the time and as indicated in the report, Allen was convinced that koalas on the tablelands and the coast were genetically similar and ‘connected’. The most recent information indicates –
” . . . Analysis of DNA samples revealed that two genotypes of koalas exist within the study area with samples from the southern section (including Numeralla) being of a different genotype to those collected from the north of the Chakola Fire Trail. Both populations contained haplotypes that were also found in the koala populations in the Strzelecki Ranges in south eastern Victoria and those in the greater Sydney area. However, there was no overlap of haplotypes between the population in the study area and the coastal forest population to the south east (D. Phalen pers. comm.) . . . The identification of two genotypes within the population is a significant finding. Further research in this field may reveal useful information about the history of koalas in the study area, and its genetic relationships with other populations.”
What remains unclear is whether these different koalas are interacting with each other, or whether the Victorian koalas are slowly occupying the territory that could be, or is, occupied by the remnant endemic population. As indicated in the map below, from the draft CKPoM, there is some uncertainty about where ‘north of Chakola fire trail’ is, as the trail heads north east from Chakola and circles back to the north west, south of Bredbo.
Another issue is the surveys undertaken in Badja State Forest. According to the latest Allen report – ” . . . The first phase of this fieldwork was undertaken between November 2010 and December 2012 and was undertaken primarily to inform fuel reduction operations planned by the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS). The second phase, undertaken between February 2012 and September 2013, aimed to inform those developing the Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for the Cooma Monaro Shire Council. This latter part of the study was funded by the NSW Environment Trust.”
It is unclear whether the NSW Environment Trust was aware the surveys were being undertaken in Badja State Forest, although it does seem a little odd given state forests and national parks are excluded from the CKPoM. However, what is apparent is that the compartment where koala activity was located was most recently approved for logging in August 2013. According to the Harvesting Plans (there are two slightly different ones), there where no koalas in the compartment at the time and there is no mention of surveys.
So it would seem the State Government has every intention of continuing its generally unaccountable approach, while passing the buck onto local government.