Numbers good, but koalas not out of the woods

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Lismore’s koalas might be great in number compared to other east coast populations, but they are plagued with disease and need more habitat, according to a new report.

The Koala Habitat and Population Assessment 2017 was recently commissioned by Lismore City Council to determine the distribution and abundance of the south-east koala population, which is managed under the 2013 Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management.

The report also examined the main threats which are causing koala mortality such as disease, vehicle strike and dog attack.

The report estimated there were approximately 1800 koalas living in the study area, demonstrating a robust population but one plagued with one of the highest rates of disease-related deaths in eastern Australia. The report suggests this is due to a number of factors including sparsely located food trees and a lack of genetic diversity.

Council’s Environmental Strategies Coordinator Angus Underwood said the report’s findings will help Council develop programs to improve the resilience of Lismore’s koalas and reduce koala deaths.

“While the results of the field survey show that koalas are occurring at high densities, the mortality rates from disease, cars and dog attacks are a major threat to the ongoing health of the population,” Angus said.

“More work needs to be undertaken to further understand the population dynamics and develop programs to reduce mortality rates.”

The report found that disease, vehicle-strike and domestic dog attack remain the primary contributors to koala mortality. Collectively, vehicle-strike and domestic dog attack accounted for 25% of all known koala mortalities, while deaths from disease accounted for a further 50%.

Lismore City Council is currently undertaking a number of different projects to address the threats outlined in the report. These include:

  • Developing partnerships with rural landholders to plant more koala food trees on private property.
  • Ongoing weed control in bushland remnants.
  • Preparing a strategy to address major black spots for koala vehicle strikes.
  • Managing development in areas of koala habitat to minimise impacts.

Other recommendations will be considered during a review of the Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management in 2018.

The full report is available via the Lismore City Council website at www.lismore.nsw.gov.au.

 

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