Where are Cowra’s koalas?

A mother and baby koala spotted by landcarers in Cowra Shire recently.
A mother and baby koala spotted by landcarers in Cowra Shire recently.

Where are Cowra’s koalas?

This is the question being asked by koala researchers John Callaghan and Maria Matthes, who have been engaged by Cowra Council, with funding from Local Land Services, to undertake a preliminary koala survey in the Cowra area.

The koala researchers will be trying to locate koalas and koala scats under likely preferred koala food trees.

Maria Matthes described the survey as “a great opportunity to understand more about the local population”.  

“We use a number of methods, including transect searches, spotlighting, and looking for scats (koala poo),” Ms Matthes said.

“We expect the local koala population to occur at reasonably low density, but we should find koala scats in any habitat areas that support stable breeding groups of koalas.

“The more local knowledge we have, the greater the likelihood of finding koalas and the better we can plan the survey design to get the best information possible.

“We would love to hear from locals who know where Cowra’s koala are, or even where they have been seen in the past.

“Each koala generally has its own favourite food and shelter trees are regularly visited, and locals often recall trees that a koala is likely to be seen in.”

It was just wonderful to see some in the wild, including a mother and baby.

Lisa Paton

Ms Matthes and Mr Callaghan have enlisted the support of Tracee Burke (Local Landcare Coordinator of Mid Lachlan Landcare) and Lisa Paton (Neville and Region Landcare Coordinator), who have been recording koala sightings from the local community.

Ms Paton said “there is a history of koala sightings within Neville, Pennsylvania and Roseberg State Forests and Copperhannia Nature Reserve in the southeast of Cowra Council area, and the 2014-15 breeding season resulted in several additional local sightings”.

“It was very exciting to know that the Landcare work we had been doing planting koala food trees and controlling weeds in koala habitat is likely to be important for the future for our local koalas.  

“We have had great support from Mid Lachlan Landcare, Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, National Parks Foundation, NSW Forestry Corporation, and the Green Army, for our koala corridor project.

“While we were planting and weeding, we were keeping our eyes out for koalas. It was just wonderful to see some in the wild, including a mother and baby, in the areas we were working in,” Ms Paton said.

However, it is not just the sightings of the koalas that has this passionate Landcarer’s interest.

Ms Paton explained that, “we also want to hear from people who hear male koalas grunting at night. It is a very loud and distinctive noise, which some people mistaken for wild pigs. I was out doing frog surveys in Pennsylvania State Forest when I heard a male koala”.

These recent sightings spiked the interest of Kate Alberry, Director of Environmental Services at Cowra Council.

“When Lisa Paton let me know that Cowra had koalas, I was very excited. I knew there were koalas in Blayney and other nearby Council areas, but there were no official records for koalas in the Council area”.

“The records that Lisa reported are just within Cowra Council boundaries. The preliminary survey will be important to improve our knowledge of the population and help guide where we might be able to expand the Koala Corridor Project.”

The koala researchers will be working in the area in early 2017. If you can help with koala sighting locations or information you think might help, call Maria Matthes on 0467 855 990.