Young koalas found near Gargett and Coppabella ready for release into the bush after months of care. All koalas released are ear-tagged, microchipped and have their DNA recorded.
Young koalas found near Gargett and Coppabella ready for release into the bush after months of care. All koalas released are ear-tagged, microchipped and have their DNA recorded.

You can help put Mackay region’s koalas on the map

THOUSANDS of koalas call this region home but Ian Gottke is working to find out exactly where they live and he needs our help.

Ian and Andrea Gottke run Padaminka Wildlife Refuge near Walkerston. Members of the Fauna Rescue Whitsunday group, they also work behind the scenes to help track koalas for university research.

"We have a project that has been going for several years now … Koala Mapping Mackay and Whitsundays," he said.

"It helps identify where the colonies are, koala movements and any hotspots for road kills and things like that.

"When we release koalas they are ear-tagged and microchipped, but we also take a DNA sample, which is sent to CQUniversity and added to their large database.

"DNA helped identify that all of the koalas in this area¬ - the Clarke-Connors Range from Collinsville to St Lawrence - are of the one species.

"We have a very large, healthy population up here."

Three young koalas being cared for by Denise and Peter Denys, of Fauna Rescue Whitsunday, at Erakala.
Three young koalas being cared for by Denise and Peter Denys, of Fauna Rescue Whitsunday, at Erakala.

While most koalas are found west of the ranges, sightings closer to Mackay have become more frequent.

In addition to the young male koala found on a road near Gargett and released last week, Ian said there had been others reported in the Gargett area and also at Walkerston, Palmyra, Kinchant Dam, Eton, Pleystowe and through to Calen.

Once a familiar sight in the Pioneer Valley and around Mackay, the vulnerable species' habitat was still under threat, mainly from tree clearing, he said.

Three young koalas being cared for by Denise and Peter Denys, of Fauna Rescue Whitsunday, at Erakala.
Three young koalas being cared for by Denise and Peter Denys, of Fauna Rescue Whitsunday, at Erakala.

The mapping project uses ALA - the Atlas of Living Australia.

"Anybody can record a sighting of a koala. All they need is a GPS position, and preferably a photo, and to answer some simple questions.

"That's where mapping is useful. Every sighting is a dot on the map. It all helps."

They also record where koalas are being killed, and will investigate reports if given a location. Phone the Fauna Rescue Whitsunday hotline - 4947 3389 - or go to the website at frw.org.au

"Most of the koalas that come in to us have been hit by a car or are orphans. Last year we would have seen 100 come in and 70 per cent were hit by a car. Only 10-15 per cent of them survive."

Data collected also goes to regional councils to identify areas of koala movement.

CQUniversity conducted an extensive two-year research project, which ended in 2018, as part of the Eton Range Alignment


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