Conserving Koala Country

Conserving Koala Country

Monday, 7 November 2011

November news

I’ve been talking about starting this blog for a while so thought I should finally do something about it.  It’s been a fantastic year for me both in terms of koala research and of meeting some amazing people.  Together we have collected a wealth of data and gained some new insights into koala behaviour and dynamics at Cape Otway. 

The Earthwatch project kicked off in April with the capture of 10 koalas (5 females and 5 males) near Bimbi Park for fitting with radiocollars.  In September and October we caught additional koalas and replaced most radio collars with GPS collars.  Accelerometers (to record activity) were fitted to 15 koalas in October.  Loads of vegetation work, koala counts, koala observations, and listening to recordings of bellows have also been completed.  Most of us have managed to get a bit ‘misplaced’ (never lost!) at some point, and may have ended up on hands and knees to crawl out of the scrub.

A big THANK YOU to all my wonderful Earthwatch participants.  I could not have done this without you.

Now for the update of our koalas....

Bimbi – 10 koalas currently collared but we've lost some (through weaklinks breaking or us removing collars), and gained some more.

Princess (April) – Always near the gate at the entrance to the site.  She was never recorded in a tree other than A001 until September.

Claire (April) – Still in the same area and now with a very cute joey.  The joey was too small for us to attempt a catch in October.  Claire’s collar is looking good though and we will probably catch her in a few weeks to put a GPS collar on her.

Buffy (April) – She is such a pretty girl.  Buffy had a pouch bulge when we first caught her in April.  By June, she had lost the young and then went on a bit of a walk about 300m to the north of the site.  She was back in the site in October and hangs out in her old trees.  She has been attracting a bit of attention by the boys so may have another pouch bulge by April next year.


Ruby (April) – Ruby has hardly moved from her April capture point.  She did not like being caught in October and gave me a ‘golden shower’.  A bit later in the day, a big male koala appeared to be a bit interested in me – I guess I smelled like Ruby.  Tony Parker has been observed having his way with Ruby!

Lucie (April) – Emily (named for my niece) emerged from Lucie’s pouch in August.  She is getting quite large and is probably close to leaving home.  Lucie is fighting off all the boys.  Dave had a go (I don’t think he was successful though), as did Brendan and Tony Parker.  Unfortunately we had to remove Lucie’s collar.  She had a scratch on one side of her neck – maybe a result of attention by males – and I didn’t want to risk it getting irritated by the collar.  I am hoping that we may be able to put the collar back on in a few weeks.

Lucie and joey 'Emily'
Nelly (October) – Originally caught in January for an honours project, this girl is now a replacement for Lucie.

Randy (April) – Randy was our hardest koala to track in September.  Two participants were heard to say ‘It took us 45 minutes to get Randy’. The weaklink broke in Randy’s collar in early October.

Willy (April) – Willy was first captured in January for an honours project, and named in honour of one of my French volunteers.  He was a big, old boy who removed a piece from my finger when we first caught him.  We removed Willy’s collar in September when we observed some signs of rubbing.  He has been observed since, harassing the girls and fighting the boys.

Nelson (April) – His weaklink broke in July so we caught ‘Banjo’ as a replacement. 

Banjo (September) – Banjo is a replacement for Nelson and appears to be a fairly dominant male; at least, in an interaction with Kevin, a look from Banjo was enough to scare Kevin away.

Dave (April) – One of my favourites! We had to remove Dave’s collar in September when we observed signs of rubbing.  Dave is still missing some hair off his neck which makes him easy to identify (he doesn’t have an eartag).  He always bellows a greeting and is trying very hard with the girls.  I managed to snap some photos of him trying to get his way with Lucie.  She was not interested and fought him off.  Dave tried clinging to Lucie’s shoulders but ended up falling about 5 metres.  He picked himself up and tried again not long afterwards.

Dave trying his best with Lucie

Wally (October) – This boy caused us some concern in October.  He disappeared about 1km into the scrub and we found him in a tea tree thicket above Rainbow Falls.  I was worried he wouldn’t find his way back but a week later, he was back in his usual tree.  I caught him to remove his accelerometer and he was no worse the wear for his trip.

Kevin (October) – First caught in January.  Kevin is actually pretty wimpy.  We have observed him in several interactions with males and he always seems to lose.

Tony Parker (October) – Named by a French volunteer after a french basketballer. Tony Parker lives in the centre of the site and is always looking for some action, whether it is fighting with the boys, or trying to get his way with the girls.  We watched him get his way with Lucie during the October trip.

Bruce (October) – You’ve got to love Bruce!  He’s a big male in his prime.

Brendan – Never collared but easily identified by the scars on his right side.  They look like fight wounds and have recently opened up again.  I’m not surprised – he always seems to be at the centre of the action.

Brendan - looking a bit worn out!

Aire River – 7 koalas
Janice (September) – This one is a bit of a drama queen.  We caught her to switch her collar over to a GPS one and she squealed from the moment I was near her.  Her GPS data confirms what we thought – she loves the little trees on the entrance road to the campground.  Maybe she likes to greet the campers?

Olivia (September) – Always in the campground.  She favours the plastic-collared trees in the middle.

Juliet (September) – This girl literally threw herself at us in September.  She saw me approaching and decided to jump.  Unfortunately, she misjudged and fell a few metres to the ground.  She was not hurt and is still doing well. She seems to love the tea trees at the water’s edge. I’ve discovered that snakes like those spots too L

Isabelle (October) – Small but judging from toothwear, has been around for a while.  Like the other girls, she doesn’t appear to move much from where we first caught her.

Rich (September) – Named in honour of Earthwatch’s Executive Director Rich Gilmore.  I thought he was relatively sedentary until we downloaded the GPS logger we attached to him.  He went on a 2-day trip of a few kilometres into the coastal scrub.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps he was bored with the girls at Aire River?
Rich's tracks - these GPS loggers are really cool

Clive (October) – Caught in a low tree just above the road but seems to like the prickliest, hardest-to-get-to parts of the bush.  I still have several thorns from prickly moses bushes in my knees from my last hunt for him.

Jonno (October) – Likes to hang out near the road (nice!).

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