Wild koala happenings over the last 15 years!

Few people look up noses for a living.  We do, and we’re proud of it!  Luckily, koala’s noses are much nicer to look at than some noses…

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wild male “Bear”

In the spring of 1998 I was walking along a gully looking for wild koalas for a group that were on their way to see them.  I had located a male, who I’d seen several times before.  At least, I think I’d seen him before – I really couldn’t be 100% sure.  He looked about the same size, was in roughly the same area.  But how to tell a big male koala from another big male koala?  They all look the same really.  Or do they?

So I studied this guy – grey fur, white belly, a bit brownish on the back – like every other koala I’d seen.  Not much help.  Look at the face, I thought.  Then suddenly I saw it.  White in the black nostrils.  Different pattern in each nostril.  Bingo.

Since then, we haven’t looked back.  Turns out, we discovered a new method of identifying wild koalas.  It has never failed us through whole lifetimes of koalas. Using it we set up our Koala Research Project.

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wild female Ingrid, a survivor

Scruffy, Russell Crowe, Ingrid, Poppy, Daisy and her sons Lacka and Rudi, Bear, Clarence, Santa Barbara, Jamie and Garry Plant became part of our world.  We learned so much from them.  Then, after 7 happy years watching koalas in the Brisbane Ranges National Park, everything changed.  A bushfire ripped through our koala area, killing 90% of them.  Jamie, Bear and Ingrid were the only survivors.

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Bear, back home

We had to find another area to visit for our tours, but we continued to monitor the Brisbane Ranges koalas for a year after the fire.  Ingrid and Jamie lived full, long lives in their original home areas, even though it was burnt badly.  Bear spent 3 weeks in hospital while his burnt feet healed, and was released back home, healthy and well.  After about 6 months he left and presumably found a new home.  He gave us an experience we had never dreamed of – close interaction with a wild koala during the capture and rehabilitation process.  He demonstrated to all that he knew us, partly by giving me a “koala kiss” on our first meeting after the traumatic capture.  He then gave us the best experience of all: to release a healthy wild koala back to their home.

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the matriarch: Smoky

Our new koala research area was in the You Yangs Park, about 20 minutes away from the Brisbane Ranges.  We found a thriving koala community there!  There was the royal line: Smoky and her daughter Pat, and grandsons Pitta, Clancy and Banjo.  There were the lovers: Karen and Merle; the battles: Vegemite vanquished Tim Tam, and then Anzac beat Vegemite; the movers: Vegemite, Vincent and Clancy, who all moved east to our new research area, and Nova, who moved west.

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The Princess: Pat, with second son Clancy

There has been drought, fire and flooding.  But through it all, our knowledge of wild koalas has grown, and our relationship with them has become stronger.  With the help of our guests, we are now creating koala habitat in the You Yangs so that more wild koalas can live in safety.

We hope we have lots more to report in coming years!

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wild male Buck

To those we have loved and lost, we thank you.  Here they are:

BRISBANE RANGES:

Scruffy, Russell Crowe, Tess, Placid, Fran, Poppy, Garry Plant, Santa Barbara, Clarence, Maria, Constantine, Ingrid, Canada, Georgia and Calusa.  Note: we don’t know if Ignatius, Rudi and Lacka were in the fire zone.  We hope they survived.  Daisy was found, alive and well, a few years ago with a baby!

YOU YANGS:

Grace, Boof, Calvin, Raini, Coal, Tim Tam, Xavier, Eureka, Emily, Mary, Svea, Karen, Zelda, Ngallo, Barak,  Billibellary, Buck, Neerer, Oatsie, Vegemite and just recently, Smoky.

To those still making our lives richer today:

Aki, Aris, Anzac, Arne, Bandit, Berrijin, Benbo, Bundjalung, Bungaleenee, Clancy, Cloud, Carninje, Corrin, Cruiz, Darren, Derrimut, Elizabeth, Emma, Fairy, Kenny,  Jin Jin, Mear, Moijerre, Marpeang, Nova, Pat, Truganina, Vincent, Wathaurong, Worinyaloke, Winberry,

and to those who’ve gone AWOL, may you be well:

Barere, Felicia, Leah, Kulpendurra, Nina,  Pitta, Banjo, Sophie, Geisha, Keyeet, Parley, Tollora, Wenn, Casa, Kolain, Murrumbean and Wonga.

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Help koalas, eh? Canada can-do!

Canadians are rushing to help Melbourne’s wild koalas in greater numbers than ever before.

Since introducing our new conservation tourism program last year, our bookings from Canada have gone through the roof” says Janine Duffy of Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours. “Canada has always been a major market for us, but recent increases have set a new record.”

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wild koala Merle with guest

The popular Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD day tour visits the You Yangs Park to walk with wild koalas, which are named and studied by Echidna Walkabout researchers. The tours pay for the research, and guests help out by finding koalas and other animals.

We’ve had Canadians of all ages, out in the Bush helping our Koalas” says Janine. “I think Canadians have a ‘can-do’ attitude. So when we see a wild koala, they want to make sure it has a future!”

The growth has been across all retailers and wholesalers, with Goway and Goway Groups the major drivers: “It’s fitting – the koala has always been Goway’s signature animal” says Janine.

Contact: Janine Duffy  

+61 (0)3 9646 8249  mob:  +61 (0)427 808 747                                               

Janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au   

www.echidnawalkabout.com.au          

For images go to:  Online Images at Picasa – Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD

The Friday Five: great outdoor things to do this week… 10 August 2012

1. The Savannah Walkabout – one day Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD guided tour!  This amazing tour showcases the icons of Australia – Koalas and Kangaroos in their natural habitats. At this time of year the roos are really active and breeding, so its pretty exciting.  It’s for small groups (2 to 8 passengers only) so it’s really interactive.  Great for kids, international visitors and locals.  Go to http://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/en/tours/savannah for more details.

2. Westgate Park, just near the West Gate bridge. An easy walk from the Docklands along the Yarra River, this beautiful park is an example of what a dedicated group of volunteers can do with an old unloved quarry. You can now walk through River Red Gum woodlands, past lakes and wetlands, have a picnic, a run or a cycle and see some wonderful birds.  Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters are still in residence and fill the bush with their liquid notes.  Watch out for Great Egrets, tiny Black-fronted Dotterels and beautiful little diving Grebes – both Australasian and Hoary-headed.  You will usually find some volunteers working in the park and they are so helpful. Go to: http://www.westgatepark.org/

3. Raymond Island, East Gippsland.  Near Paynesville, in the Lakes National Park area, is a island sanctuary for wildlife. Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Echidnas, Tawny Frogmouths, parrots and lots of other birds live wild on the island.  The human inhabitants love their wildlife, and the wildlife knows it – they don’t seem as scared of humans here as in other places. Winter is a great time to be here.  There’s very few people around, but everything is open.  My tip – stay 2 nights at one of the lovely accommodation options.  Take an early morning birdwatching walk, followed by a short trip on the ferry to Paynesville, a long, lazy breakfast, then back to Raymond for an afternoon nap! When you’re refreshed get out again to search for koalas and kangaroos in the late afternoon sunshine, but make sure you’re back near the ferry to watch out for dolphins as they come in at dusk.

4. Melbourne Sports Tours. Sport is just such a part of Melbourne.  I’m not a huge fan of TV sport, but even I get excited by the buzz around the MCG on a Footy night.  The crowds are fascinating, friendly and fun.  I love just driving or walking past it, and savouring the rivalry/camaraderie of it all.  Whether you’re a local or a visitor, you should check out these tours.  You’ll learn something, have a ball, and share the day or evening with a guide who is passionate about sport and Melbourne.  Go to: http://www.melbournesportstours.com.au/index.html

5. St Kilda Botanical Gardens.  This is my latest discovery.   A tip from a young birdwatcher sent me there in search of a rare little bird called a Pink Robin.  I found her, but I also enjoyed the whole park experience enormously.  They have patches of beautiful native bush, a tranquil rose garden, a pond.  There is a friendly and welcoming EcoCentre in one corner – walk in anytime from 9 to 5 to find information about the area, terrific books to buy, eco-friendly products.  Go to: http://www.foskbg.org.au/

A new koala baby! You Yangs Koala Update – August 2010

We have our first koala baby in the You Yangs research population for the season!   An unknown mature female has produced what looks to be a healthy, large and confident joey.  They were seen together on 1st August north of the Lower Picnic Ground

First emergence of koala joeys is expected between 6 and 7 months of age, but the first few journeys outside of the pouch are usually brief (Martin & Handasyde 1999).  Also, from our own experience, mother koalas seem to be very capable of hiding young joeys.  So in wild, unhabituated populations of koalas, these first tentative outside steps are probably not often witnessed by people.

When first seen, the mother was feeding on a River Red Gum, and her joey was clinging to her belly.  He was reaching for leaves as his mother ate, but I didn’t see him put any in his mouth.  He was quite active – wriggling around a lot, changing position often – which is why I say that he seems confident.  He also seemed quite plump, and fairly large for his presumed age.

So we can assume that this sighting was not his first emergence from the pouch.  From his size, I reckon that he is about 7 months old.  So he was probably born in December 2009 or early January 2010.

Baby koalas start ingesting pap* between 172 and 213 days of age – 5.7 to 7.1months (Thompson 1987 in Martin & Handasyde 1999) and this continues for about a month.  They start eating gum leaves shortly after they start taking pap (Martin & Handasyde 1999).  So it’s not unusual that this joey was reaching for leaves – he may already be trying to eat them.

The one other koala baby we have monitored closely in this area emerged on or before 24 July 2008.  He was Pitta, the first joey of Pat – one of our most frequently seen koalas.  He was smaller, slimmer and much more tentative than this joey was at 1 August.  We think Pitta was younger on that first sighting – perhaps closer to 6 months old. We were lucky enough to see the pair often, and we monitored his development closely.  After that first sighting, Pitta was in and out of the pouch for the next month, but after 25 August he was clearly seen every time we saw Pat.

Pitta would have been born around January 2008.  He quickly became a big boy.  Until 20 November mother and son were always together, and often touching or holding each other.  But by the start of December Pat was vigorously resisting his attempts to suckle, and was seen to smack and bite at him at times.  We suspect that Pat was pregnant again (if so, this joey did not survive), which could explain her sudden determination to wean him.  In January 2009 Pitta was independent and usually seen in a different tree to his mother.  He disappeared about the end of January 2009 at 12 months old, presumably to find a home range of his own.

It will be very interesting to monitor the development of this joey over the next year.  We would appreciate hearing of any sightings of koalas with young, particularly around the Turntable Drive area.  Any koalas seen with young in the You Yangs are of great interest to our study.   If possible we would love a couple of photographs showing the nose and face of the mother, and/or her back and lower flanks plus a photograph of the whole tree she is in, and a bit of detail about the location (or a GPS reading).  Send to janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au  or to Janine Duffy, PO Box 370, Port Melbourne 3207 PH: 03 9646 8249

If you do see this female and her joey, please be very quiet and move slowly around her – she is a nervous little thing.  We always try to stay at least 10metres away from any wild koala, particularly nervous ones like this one.  Getting closer just makes them climb up away from you.  If there are a few of you, stay together on one side of the tree – nervous koalas become more stressed the more people move around at the base of their tree, particularly if those people separate.  The best policy, if you can, is just to wait and give her time to relax.

 

*Pap – soft, micro-organism-rich material produced by a mother koala, probably in her caecum, and eaten by a baby koala. This is considered to be the mother’s way of introducing digestive organisms to the baby koala’s gut. (Martin & Handasyde 1999).

 

References: Martin, R & Handasyde, K: The Koala, Natural history, conservation and management. UNSW Press Second Edition 1999. pages 60 – 67