Koala Karaoke highlights fire recovery in the Monaro Koalas

Spring is the time for love when you are a koala. If you were lucky, you may have heard the distinctive bellow calls as the males serenade the females and warn off rival males. It was a sound that Monaro residents were concerned they may not hear as frequently since the 2019/20 black summer bushfires.

A recently developed survey technique exploits the bellowing behaviour of males and records the calls to detect koala presence. All along the east coast of NSW, communities have been recording these calls under the citizen science project ‘Koala Karaoke’. This year, Koala Karaoke reached the Monaro. Through the Habitat and Wildlife Recovery Project - Enhancing Koala Habitat project, South East Local Land Services partnered with local landholders to survey for koalas using these audio recording devices.

“We know that a great many koalas were lost in the fires and it is critical to understand where koalas have persisted” Numeralla Landcare Chair, Jim Wharton said. “Audio recordings have offered a relatively easy technique for landholders to record koala presence on their property and we were thrilled with the number of people that joined in the project”.

Over 60 landholders participated in the survey that deployed 110 recorders across private property and national park reserves. Initial results have been positive, with koalas detected at more than half of the properties. ‘It was a surprising and very pleasing result’ said Local Land Services Bushfire Recovery Officer, Kirrily Gould. ‘What was wonderful to see was that koalas were found right across the region and not restricted solely to National Parks’.

The Monaro is home to one of the state’s Areas of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS). Local landholders are critical to the conservation of koalas in the Monaro ARKS, with approximately 90 per cent of the area privately owned. Support for on ground activities through this program aims to assist landholder conservation. By the end of the project funding for 12 properties will have helped protect and enhance koala habitat throughout the Monaro ARKS.

Final results of the Monaro Koala Karaoke will be in early this year and contribute to the national database on koala sightings. If you are interested in where koalas may be near you, view the distribution map at SEED Koala sightings. Or if you are keen to contribute your sightings, the citizen science app, I Spy Koala, allows anyone in NSW to record sightings of koalas in the wild. App users can enter information about the location and condition of the koala, as well as photos and other important information.

The data collected from I Spy Koala is open access and used to inform land managers and the community about koala distribution and assist long-term conservation strategies to secure healthy koala populations in the wild.

Image 1. Koala in tree.

Image 2. Song Meter Micro field deployment example.

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