With only a week or so left to comment on the Cooma-Monaro koala management plan proposals, one of the issues inadequately addressed is die-back. While several references are made to die-back in the main body of the plan, only Bell miner Associated Die-back is specifically referred to. Not surprising, die-back isn’t listed as a threat to koalas in the OE&H’s ‘Koala habitat study” (Allen 2014), part of the appendices. However, it is perhaps this omission that suggests the management plan is a better outcome for the NSW government, as opposed to a nomination to list the northeast Monaro koalas as endangered, for example.
So it seems appropriate to point out some of the concerns in comments on the draft koala plan.
As indicated in the map below, issues not canvassed in the draft, provide some of the reasons why these koalas could become extinct in the short term. The purple outline approximates the proposed koala management area, that includes forested areas mostly within four catchments. The Chakola line approximates the boundary between koalas said to have Victorian DNA and those said to have DNA similar to koalas around Sydney.
While there is no physical barrier to the movement of koalas from south to north, if koalas in the north have Chlamydia and those in the south don’t, a biological barrier could be in place. It would be helpful if the final plan could clarify this.
Left bottom of the koala management area (green hatch) and perhaps slightly overlapping it, is an approximation of the extensive area recently defined with Manna gum (E. viminalis) die-back. To the east, areas of red are forests that turn brown during dry weather and drought, pink bits apparently turn half brown. There is a small area of red forest in the headwaters (southern end) of the Numeralla catchment, where the most recent koala records are dated 1991.
To the east of the Numeralla catchment there is an extensive area of ‘wilderness’ that is very steep and likely to form a physical barrier to movement east or west.
Any pre-european koala movement between the coast and the tablelands is likely to have been to the southeast , where coastal koalas are now extinct. Although this area is subject to frequent winter snowfalls.
Based on this information there would seem to be a case for potential extinction, perhaps in the short term and particularly for koalas south of the Chakola line.
According to the draft plan, one of the tasks is ‘ . . . Preparing and implementing education programmes, encompassing encouragement of reporting of koala sightings, road incidents and occurrences of vegetation dieback.” This is to be undertaken by the Koala Management Committee, community groups and ‘other government agencies’. The list does not include the NPWS, Local Land Services, Council, RFS or landholders, but the OE&H will provide ‘assistance as may be required’.