Happy snaps key to secret lives of EP koalas

An adult koala rests in red gum on southern Eyre Peninsula.
An adult koala rests in red gum on southern Eyre Peninsula.

Happy snaps of koala mothers and young koala joeys outside of Mikkira station could help Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula understand the secret lives of koalas on southern Eyre Peninsula.

Natural resource management officer Andrew Freeman said reporting sightings of koalas with joeys was a great way of participating in the EP Koala Citizen Science Project because it helped increase the collective understanding of how far koalas had spread on Eyre Peninsula since first being introduced in 1969.

Outside of Mikkira Station wild koalas are hard to spot so the community is being called on to assist by submitting photos of koalas with joeys online at www.epkoalas.com.au.

“Now is the perfect time to start keeping an eye out,” Mr Freeman said.

“Koalas breed from September to February, therefore any early December conceived joeys could be starting to emerge from the pouch now.

“Generally joeys stay in the pouch for up to six months, so you could start to see them on their mothers’ backs from as early as March and now through to their peak in spring.”

At Mikkira they are noticed most with young during August but Mr Freeman said Natural Resources EP was trying to establish if there were koalas with young outside of Mikkira.

“We really don’t know if local koalas are simply moving around and returning to the main breeding ground of Mikkira or if they have smaller breeding populations out there somewhere on southern EP.”

Joe Eagle of Yacca Land Management controlling feral olive and Italian buckthorn woody weeds, with Andrew Freeman from Natural Resources EP, showing the average intake of gum leaves an adult koala eats in one day.

Joe Eagle of Yacca Land Management controlling feral olive and Italian buckthorn woody weeds, with Andrew Freeman from Natural Resources EP, showing the average intake of gum leaves an adult koala eats in one day.

Koala facts

  • Koalas give birth to a single joey, born after a 33 to 35-day pregnancy.
  • Both male and female koalas are mature enough to reproduce at three years of age.
  • Koalas need healthy trees to survive and they eat about half a kilogram of leaves a day.

“We’ve recently completed an assessment of the health of trees within the currently known koala habitat,” Mr Freeman said.

The assessment included manna gum woodland sites at Mikkira Station and other sites further afield, such as around Tulka, close to Wanilla Forest and near Marble Range, where threatened EP blue gum woodlands grow.

“Tree health at these sites is important because they are some of the furthest locations away from Mikkira Station where community have reported koala sightings,” Mr Freeman said.

“Our field work involves scoring the leaf cover or canopy of eucalyptus trees, taking monitoring photos called photo-points so we can see the change in trees over time, as well as recording any koalas or any signs of koalas such as scratching on bark and scats around the base of the trees.”

Weed control in these woodlands is also crucial health and longevity of trees and work is well underway to removal of invasive olives, Aleppo pines and Italian buckthorn woody weeds that directly compete and stress eucalypts for water, light and soil space.

I couldn’t believe it had found the only manna gum on my property, but it is well known that they love eating the leaves of manna gums.

Citizen scientist Simon Bey

Citizen scientist Simon Bey said he recently saw a koala on his property in Port Lincoln and reported it to the epkoalas website.

“The koala was on a manna gum that I planted many years ago.

“I couldn’t believe it had found the only manna gum on my property, but it is well known that they love eating the leaves of manna gums.”

He also works with the Port Lincoln Scout group, which has been involved with collecting local manna gum seed to grow food trees for koalas.