Using science to help save Sunshine Coast koalas | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Cutting edge science to help save iconic species

Little is known about how and where this iconic Australian species lives here on the Sunshine Coast, but that’s about to change.

Thanks to almost $200,000 from an Australian Government grant, a new project ‘Saving Sunshine Coast Koalas’ will see five partners – Sunshine Coast Council, First Nations Peoples, University of Sunshine Coast Detection Dogs for Conservation research group, Brush Turkey Enterprises, Mooloolah River LandCare – work together to fill the knowledge gap.

Cutting-edge science, such as artificial intelligence, koala bellow recognition programs, drone-mounted thermal imagery, detection dogs and next-generation scat genetic analyses will be used, with the information gathered used to support koala conservation.

UniSC's Detection Dogs for Conservation research group will work on the ground to establish where koalas live across the region.

DDC Director Dr Romane Cristescu said the research will provide a valuable insight into the local koala population, including where they live, numbers, state of their health and what they eat.

“This project will build new knowledge for targeted on-ground conservation efforts, habitat restoration and treatment of chlamydial disease,” Dr Cristescu said.

“In addition to informing and enabling koala threat abatement, it will contribute valuable koala density data – which is critical to validating and refining current koala habitat modelling and contributing to the National Koala Monitoring Program.”

On-ground surveys in the region’s relatively inaccessible habitat will look for koalas that need care, and trees will be planted to extend and connect existing koala habitat.

Sunshine Coast Council Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez said that with a united approach, the team could help this threatened species survive in our wildlife-friendly biosphere.

“While we do know a little about the koalas in some small pockets of the Sunshine Coast, this project will give us a region-wide view and understanding of the local population,” Cr Suarez said.

“Council is proud to partner with our community and be part of the Australia-wide effort to protect these iconic Australian animals and deliver on the Sunshine Coast Koala Conservation Plan.”

Brush Turkey Enterprises will extend the existing Howells Knob Koala Restoration Project by an extra two hectares and host a local landholder koala habitat workshop day with neighbouring properties in Reeseville.

Spencer Shaw, from Mooloolah Landcare, said they would grow and supply 3500 koala food trees and hold a koala community planting day for landowners in the Mooloolah Catchment.

“Thanks to this project, the future is looking brighter for the koalas of Reesville, with habitat extension and connection, and perhaps more importantly, education and engagement with residents about the amazing country we share with koalas,” Mr Shaw said.

By implementing our threatened species management plans we are protecting and enhancing our natural landscapes and its inhabitants and delivering on the Strategic Pathways of the Environment and Liveability Strategy.

This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Saving Koalas Fund

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