News from the field
We have been crazy busy in the field for the last few months, and want to share with you some news from our Blue Mountains Koala Project. Firstly, we have the first joey from one of our study animals! The joey’s mum was fitted with a collar last summer as part of our pilot project, and since then has mated and produced a bundle of cuteness. He or she is named “ears” for now by one of the team who spent many hours at the base of the tree waiting to get this photo.
We are pleased to announce that after a recent and successful session finding and catching koalas, we are now tracking ten koalas in the Blue Mountains and some are already leading us into some pretty interesting habitats. The first few koalas that we tracked last summer had very small home ranges, they were all sitting in huge trees on a patch of very high quality soil. Right now the koalas are coming into breeding season so they are moving around more and we are tracking some real adventurers. No-one really knows which tree species koalas prefer in the Blue Mountains, or which habitats they use, and we already have some very interesting data coming in to answer those questions.
The process of catching the koalas and fitting collars is arduous at this site, it is not unusual to spend an entire day searching an area, looking up trying to spot koalas twenty to thirty meters up in the canopy, without seeing a single koala. The highest we have seen a koala so far is up the top of a fifty meter blue gum. Catching the koala is yet another challenge, so we use professional climbers to go up the trees to catch them for us. These guys are experts and in less than half an hour the koalas have been caught, had a health check, had a collar fitted and are back up in the tree again.
The tracking collars that we fit to the koalas have a weak link in them, so that if the collar is put under strain because a branch gets caught on it, the weak link breaks and the collar comes off. Two of our male study animals dropped their collars during winter, one during a huge storm, the other we are guessing got into a fight with another male as his collar had sharp claw puncture marks in it. We were lucky enough to find and recapture both of these boys; we gave them a health check and neither of them were any worse for wear so we are now tracking them again to see how far they venture over the mating season.
During our fieldwork this month we identified a potential new site containing koalas, and we are currently planning surveys to get a study underway there.
Don’t forget to like our Facebook page, and we have a new site specifically for the Blue Mountains Koala Project at www.facebook.com/koalaspotters
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