Council sniffs out koalas at 17 new bushland sites

Brisbane City Council is continuing Australia’s largest genetic and population mapping survey of koalas, with 85 per cent of new bushland areas surveyed showing evidence of the at-risk species.

Acting Mayor Adrian Schrinner said detection efforts had uncovered extremely high koala activity in half of all sites surveyed, with evidence of multiple koalas living in the bushland areas during recent months.

“Council is committed to protecting this unique native species and is working with researchers at the recently opened Brisbane Koala Science Institute to map koala populations and identify the impact of genetic diseases,” Cr Schrinner said.

“Between May and July, two highly trained detection dogs sniffed out 20 sites that Council has acquired as part of its Bushland Acquisition Program, to provide information on koala health, genetic diversity, breeding and movement behaviour.

“The survey identified the presence of koalas at 17 of 20 sites explored, of which ten sites registered a significant amount of koala activity.

“When combined with previous survey results, large pockets of known koala habitat has now been mapped, such as the Mt Coot-tha Reserve, Toohey Forest and Burbank.

“Just three sites in the city’s southwest region were found to have no recent koala activity, Wally Tate Park (Kuraby), Blunder Creek Reserve (Doolandella), Fort Road Bushlands and Rocks Riverside Park (Seventeen Mile Rocks).

“More than 420 kilometres were covered by the detection dogs during the surveys and 66 dog-hours went into sniffing out the location of our furry friends.”

Cr Schrinner said that in addition to identifying koalas, material was collected at four regions for further genetic research.

“Koala scats will now be analysed to determine gender, migration, genetic similarities and the prevalence of disease, to inform breed and release programs at the Koala Science Institute,” he said.

“Previous data has suggested high rates of disease plaguing local koalas, including the auto-immune disease Koala Retro-Virus and Chlamydia which may be impacting populations.”

Cr Schrinner said that the koala detection surveys were a powerful resource to ensure Council’s bushland purchase program was targeted and effective.

“By identifying locations with high levels of koala activity in areas including Bardon, McDowall, Moggill and Alderley, Council can preserve koala habitat with targeted land purchases to create green wildlife corridors and wildlife movement zones along roadways,” he said.

“Close to 500 hectares of bushland has been purchased by Council since 2016 and an additional 250 hectares is planned for purchase by 2020, with priority given to areas adjoining confirmed koala habitat.”