Unexpected rise in koala numbers on KI

News article |

Kangaroo Island’s koala population has emerged as a concern after the most recent koala census found an unexpected rise in numbers.

Natural Resources Kangaroo Island Manager (Science and Programme Planning) Martine Kinloch said until the 2015-16 census, numbers had been declining steadily thanks to the koala sterilisation program.

“The latest census estimated there were about 24,000 koalas in native vegetation, and another 26,000 koalas in the island’s commercial blue gum plantations,” Ms Kinloch said.

“This estimate is currently being evaluated in partnership with the University of Adelaide, as part of a project aimed at better targeting priority areas for management.”

An island-wide koala census is carried out every five years as part of Koala Management Plan’s monitoring program.

The management plan has been in place since 1996, managing koala numbers through sterilisation in order to protect native vegetation and ecosystems.

Ms Kinloch said the reasons for the population increase included koalas breeding in the commercial plantations – not previously regarded as suitable koala habitat – and favourable climatic conditions.

“While total koala numbers on the island have increased, the good news is that their density, in areas where management efforts have been focused, has decreased,” she said.

“That means over-browsing has been reduced in these areas, and impacted vegetation is recovering, indicating that the sterilisation program has been effective.”

Kangaroo Island is not alone, with koala numbers beginning to emerge as an issue in other South Australian regions.

“Koala management is being reviewed, not only on the island but at a state-wide level,” Ms Kinloch said.

“The review process will focus on filling critical knowledge gaps around population dynamics, landscape distribution and density-related impacts of koalas on Kangaroo Island.

“It will also explore new strategies and technologies for managing overabundant populations, such as hormone implants as a more efficient and cost-effective population control mechanism.

“We are working with Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers to determine how koalas in blue gum plantations will be managed in the future.

“It is important to remember that culling koalas is not supported by any government in the country, due both to animal welfare concerns and the fact that many people see the koala as a symbol of Australia.”

If you have any questions please contact the Kangaroo Island natural resources centre on 8553 4444 or visit http://www.landscape.sa.gov.au/ki/plants-and-animals/native-animals/koala-management.

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