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An unexpected Koala found

Published 03 Mar 2020 by Alistair Bestow

A  bushfire swept through our Scottsdale Reserve on Nugunnuwal country in NSW at the start of February. The fire impacted much of our revegetation work, some old growth trees were lost, and the high country was also partially burnt. Staff and volunteers have been on the ground assessing the impact of the fire and surveying for wildlife… little did they know they would find a first recorded species for Scottsdale.

Reserve Manager Phil Palmer filmed this short video.

It was shaping up to be a normal day, a good normal day of course as it was at Bush Heritage’s Scottsdale Reserve after all. The morning was spent recording waypoints of fire-affected, and non-fire affected planted trees on Railway Tunnel Hill following the recent bushfires in the region.

The afternoon was also set to continue to be normal – windy and sunny – and the next set of waypoints to be recorded were near the northern end of the reserve. Trundling along the main north-south track in the reliable but ageing Scottsdale Landcruiser (the one with the numberplate byline 'NSW Towards 2000'), I passed some fire-affected trees.

A 'growth' half way up a planted tree caught my eye. I reversed and disembarked. Not 15 metres from the track, about three metres up a fire-affected, brown-leaved eucalyptus was the distinct backside of a koala. He was alive and looking in rude health.  

I telephoned Phil Palmer the Scottsdale Reserve Manager, and unusually the telephone was not engaged. He immediately requested that I not take my eye off the koala for a moment until he arrived. About a minute later a very excited Phil arrived armed with his camera phone. Lo and behold it turned out to be the first confirmed record of a koala for the reserve (and my first proper look at a wild koala).  

Several other volunteers were diverted from their tree de-guarding duties and came along for a look. Fortunately for all the humans, the tree was only about six metres tall, and the koala seemingly had a comfortable branch at about the mid-height point, giving us all great views.

Phil and Scottsdale Field Officer Kim Jarvis couldn't contain their excitement and departed the koala tree to collect some branches of fresh eucalyptus leaves, while I stayed on guard. The newly picked eucalyptus branches were tied in place at about eating height. The male koala became more alert with the whiff of fresh leaves at its nose, and it was not long before it was enjoying an afternoon snack. It appeared quite unperturbed by all the attention. 

The koala was still there in the late afternoon, when two more volunteers came to visit – it remained on the same branch in the same tree. As I write this, I hope it's moved to a more suitable, tastier tree than the one in which it was found.

So in the end it was not a normal afternoon at all. Far from it, it was one of the best I have had at Scottsdale.
The first Koala recorded on Scottsdale Reserve. The first Koala recorded on Scottsdale Reserve.
It was quite unperturbed by all the attention. It was quite unperturbed by all the attention.
We left out some water. We left out some water.
Fresh gum leaves were provided. Fresh gum leaves were provided.
Taking a drink. Taking a drink.
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