GPS tracking technology used in NSW to help conserve koalas “in grave decline and under great threat”

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GPS tracking technology is being used to monitor the movements of koalas in the forests of the north coast of New South Wales in an attempt to stop a serious decline in their numbers.

Koalas are fitted with lightweight GPS tracking collars to determine how much state logging is affecting their movements, and to assess whether there are enough protective areas in place and how well animals are using the areas. regeneration after harvest.

The research is carried out by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and the Forestry Corporation.

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The Ministry of Primary Industries captured this video of a koala released after being fitted with a GPS tracking collar

DPI lead researcher Dr Brad Law said this was part of NSW Koala’s overall strategy and the results would be reviewed by the Natural Resources Commission.

“One of the key things we want to look at is how much do they really need those areas that are conserved and protected from logging, and how much do they use the saplings that come after the logging. harvesting an area, ”he said. .

“It is very difficult to know to what extent an area needs to be protected,” said Dr Law.

Close-up of a koala's face.
It is hoped that the koala monitoring project will help halt the decline in koala numbers in New South Wales and Queensland.(Provided: Bimbi Park)

Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan said the research was another step in saving koalas from extinction in NSW and Queensland.

“It’s about conserving cash and managing it better,” she said.

“Every piece of information that comes in, no matter what area of ​​research, with koalas is very important in putting the small pieces of the puzzle together.

“Victoria and South Australia are different, they have a lot more koalas than we do, but give it time, they will be in the same situation.”

Where do koalas go and what trees do they use?

A koala climbing a tree in the middle of a forest.
All koalas fitted with tracking collars also go through a full health check – a clinic can even be run in the bush.(Provided: Department of Primary Industries)

As part of the project, 10 koalas will be fitted with tracking collars and monitoring will continue for approximately 12 months depending on the expected battery life of the GPS collars, which transmit information.

So far, two koalas, Traecey and Dazza, have been captured, equipped with the technology, and released.

Dr Law said the first koala, Traecey, was released late last year and that they had already received interesting data to track its movements on both recorded and unregistered land.

“So far it is only the first few days she has a small home range between two ravines in the forest, but we are also able to get information on the type of trees she uses” , did he declare.

“So, especially at this time with the hot weather that we have, she uses trees with fairly dense foliage, in the shade, trying to keep cool during the day.

“In the areas that are harvested, some trees are left behind for wildlife, so we can look and see what kinds of trees the koalas are using.”

An aerial map showing the GPS tracking locations of koalas.
This map shows the GPS tracking locations for the koala, Traecey, revealing that it used recorded and protected areas.(Provided: Department of Primary Industries)

Dr Law said they were also very interested to see to what extent Traecey used areas logged with regenerating young eucalyptus trees, compared to mature forests.

Koalas get checkups at bush clinic

A koala in a veterinary clinic receiving treatment.
Cheyne Flanagan, clinical director of Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and veterinarian Irene Rodriegez check a koala’s health before putting on a tracking collar.(Provided: Department of Primary Industries)

The project will also provide information on the health of the koala population.

Staff at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital are helping put on the collars and will perform comprehensive health assessments for all koalas involved, taking into account their age and reproductive status.

Checks can be carried out indoors or outdoors.

“We anesthetize the koalas and give them a full health exam, then put on the radio collar, the collars are really light – they only weigh around 60 grams and are really good.”

A volunteer with a koala.
A volunteer takes care of a koala at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.(ABC News: Emma Siossian)

The first two collared koalas, Traecey and Dazza, were both treated at Koala Hospital for the bacterial disease, ocular chlamydia, before being released.

The disease can cause blindness and infertility.

Ms Flanagan said the hot, dry summer affected many koalas and worsened illnesses.

“When it’s really dry… it increases the incidence of chlamydia, it just seems to bring it on, because they don’t get out of it.”

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