Spring is here – listen to the dulcet tones of a koala bellow!

From September until March it is koala mating season. During this time, koalas are more conspicuous. Males are bellowing to attract mates and both males and females will travel kilometers to find their love interest for this season. All of this action makes it a great time to get an idea of where koalas are living.

If you’re in an area where koalas might be around, keep an ear out for the amazing male bellow! You can listen to it here:

The koala bellow is a bizarre sound, it is not what you’d expect from an apparently small, cute and fluffy mammal – but if you know koalas like we do, it does give a hint that their outer cuddly-looking persona belies a marsupial with some attitude.

The bellow sounds sort of like a wild pig up a tree. The “wind down” in their call is not unlike that of the African lion and the sound travels a long way, up to several kilometers. That’s impressive for a beast that is only about 10kg in size.

If you like it, you can even download it as a ring tone for your phone!

Koalas versus radio-trackers

For our research team and our dedicated volunteers, this time of year is action stations as well.

Radio-tracking of the koalas in Kanangra-Boyd National Park has continued and even before mating season they have been moving around much more compared to before the fires. An increase in their home range size was expected to some extent since they are in a burn zone and the quality of habitat, including their food trees, is still patchy. That means they have to move more to get to the good quality patches of tucker. Now that mating season is kicking in, they will be moving around even more and really keeping our radio-tracking teams on their toes.

There are already a couple of koalas that are hard to get regular data on as they head down incredibly steep slopes that are not safe for humans to descend. We have some safety limits with our radio-tracking and one important one is, if you need a rope to get down there, don’t go!

The last joeys from the previous mating season have emerged from their mum’s pouch, including Kali’s new joey and Pele’s. Some of the other joeys have already grown up and moved on – with a matting season spread over 6 months, there’s a big variation in joey sizes.

Kali and her joey (Image: Cale Brown)
Pele the koala with joey Phoenix, named due to being a part of the new generation of koalas after the fires (Image: Ben Richardson)

The Zen of Scat Counting

We are excited to report that our surveys across the fire zones have already been fruitful. Just this morning our scat survey team came across fresh scat, looked up and discovered a koala with ear tags sitting in the tree above. Looking back at our records, the koala’s name is ‘Athena’ and she was studied from April 2017 for 12 months, around Mountain Lagoon. She has since moved a few kilometers away from her original home. We are happy to report that Athena is big and healthy, despite chlamydia residing in that area. It is lovely to know this fluffy eared female is still around and thriving, despite the fires!

Athena of the fluffy ears (Image: Nicole Gallahar)

If you’re a keen bushwalker and want to help with our surveys, you can sign up HERE. We’ve had a lot of interest which is fantastic, thanks to everyone who has signed up to help with this important work. If the days you can go are already full, don’t despair as we have four more study sites to go and the surveys will run for months.

Scat Survey (Image: Victoria Inman)
Scat Survey (Image: Victoria Inman)

S4W in the Media

You might have seen us on The Project last month, and this month our ED Dr Kellie was a guest speaker at a big event in the USA, along with an amazing group of wildlife conservationists including Dr Jane Goodall. The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) holds two expo’s each year, however due to Covid-19 they’ve taken it virtual this year. The event covers 24 different species across the globe! You can register to listen in this coming weekend HERE. By registering, you will also get access to the talks from last weekend which includes Dr Kellie’s presentation.