At Goonderoo Reserve we have been getting very excited about fuzzy bums.
It all started last April when volunteer caretakers, Hazel and Dennis Hanrahan sent through a photo of a very healthy looking Koala they spotted while conducting sand pad surveys. Hazel told me how she and Dennis were busily raking the sand pads we use to monitor fauna activity when something made her look up. She was delighted to see the recognisable greyish, white rump of a koala facing down at her.
While koalas had been ‘popping up’ on camera traps at neighbouring Avocet Nature Refuge for a number of months, they were yet to be officially recorded on Goonderoo Reserve so the Hanrahan’s sighting was cause for celebration. All I can say is, thank goodness they looked up!
It may be a case that Koalas have always been there and we just haven’t been actively looking for them. As I found out recently, they're not always easy to spot. Despite their ample size, they're not beyond climbing to the highest, thinnest branches where their silhouette is broken up by waving foliage and a glary skyline. They can go happily unnoticed by the people working below.
Either way, Goonderoo volunteers have been excitedly looking up for fuzzy bums ever since.
Today is Wild Koala Day and wild koala sighting are indeed something to be celebrated. They're an iconic Australian species but Koalas are sadly in decline in many parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Populations have been greatly impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation, along with other threats such as predation and disease.
At Goonderoo, we're now rolling out a dedicated monitoring program to pay close attention to the health and dynamics of the local koala population and their habitat. Bush Heritage is very fortunate to have found strong partners in this work. The Fitzroy Basin Association has been extremely generous in funding the purchase of additional monitoring equipment that will be used not only on the Koala surveys but regular surveillance of predator activity on the reserve. Additionally, the Nature Refuge Landowner Grant is going to cover the cost of engaging a Koala expert to support the design of the monitoring program.
During the recent school holidays, we had the pleasure of spending a morning in the timbered creek lines of Goonderoo with volunteers Steve and Jiri Prothero and John Wybrow. We were joined by Kate and Joseph from the Fitzroy Basin Association and Department of Environment and Science Senior Conservation Officer, Janelle Lowry and her family.
It was a wonderful opportunity to hear about the successes the volunteers had been having with feral animal control as well as observe signs of Koalas and eventually spot some fuzzy bums.
I was also especially excited to finally meet Steve and his daughter Jiri. Steve has been volunteering (and occasionally contracting) with Bush Heritage for well over a decade. Ten years ago, Steve and his wife Cathy took leave from work and spent six months living at Goonderoo with their very young family (Jiri was 7 years old at the time).
Steve was the perfect host and wildlife guide, even offering to smell and taste-test koala droppings to confirm their source!
Fellow volunteer, John Wybrow, is a regular volunteer on our Scottsdale Reserve in the ACT, who travelled to Central Queensland to join his friend Steve for part of his caretaker posting. During his stay, John and his long lens managed to get some incredible shots of the Goonderoo Koalas. In particular, close-ups of their distinctive noses, which will be valuable for identifying individual animals and tracking their movements on the reserve.
So, stay tuned for more news from Goonderoo as we learn more about the koalas that call the place home.