IN SAFE HANDS: Ipswich Koala Protection Society vice president Marilyn Spletter with Opal the four-month-old koala. She has been rescuing koalas for 28 years.
IN SAFE HANDS: Ipswich Koala Protection Society vice president Marilyn Spletter with Opal the four-month-old koala. She has been rescuing koalas for 28 years. Cordell Richardson

One key thing needed to help our koalas survive

WHEN the Woogaroo Koala Protection Society was established 25 years ago in response to growing development in Ipswich, the group hoped it would no longer be needed by now.

In 2000, it changed its name to the Ipswich Koala Protection Society but its work goes well beyond city lines.

The group is busier than ever having rescued 3500 koalas in a quarter of a century and travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometres in its mission.

Vice-president Marilyn Spletter has been rescuing koalas for 28 years and hand raised more than 100 joeys with her husband.

She fears in the next decade, the only way people will be able to see the native animal is in a zoo as development continues to wipe out their habitat.

University of Queensland research fellow and ecological researcher Dr Bill Ellis was part of a team which conducted a report for Ipswich City Council on population numbers in February 2016 using a scientific estimate based on all data available from the council and other entities.

The report revealed there could be anywhere between 1546 and 4368 koalas left locally.

Dr Ellis said the more data available, the better the animal could be protected and Ipswich was lagging behind other council areas like Brisbane and Redland in that regard.

"I don't think there's been a really good study of Ipswich's koalas," he said.

"That's one of the things we found (in 2016). We had to extrapolate a lot. There hasn't been a really good body of survey data put together out there.

"There's not what I'd call a really good picture of what's going on in Ipswich... there's a genuine lack of data. Compared to Brisbane City Council or Redland City Council (where) there's good ongoing surveys and monitoring, there's not much in Ipswich."

Dr Ellis said having better idea where they are thriving, and where they aren't, was key to conservation efforts.

"In terms of the future of the population, you need to get a really good idea of exactly where they are and how many there are and the patterns across the landscape from a planning perspective," he said.

"It's really useful to know what areas are going to be better and where you're going to get more bang for your buck in terms of prioritising retention and also even recreation of habitat.

"The connection that previously existed through from up there in Ipswich down through Springfield, across Ripley and down to Flinders Peak, I think that whole avenue for movement of koalas is in jeopardy because of that development.

"Some way of connecting or retaining or creating that connection will be important for that population of koalas.

"We just don't have the kind of information that we need in those areas to see what is going on. Carers are always telling me the development is really effecting the koalas."

 

Ipswich Koala Protection Society vice president Marilyn Spletter with Opal the 4 month old koala.
Ipswich Koala Protection Society vice president Marilyn Spletter with Opal the 4 month old koala. Cordell Richardson

We all have 'responsibility' to protect native animals

Koalas are popping up more regularly in urban areas as they struggle with habitat loss and extremely dry conditions.

One was rescued in West Ipswich this week.

Veterinarian Dr Rebecca Larkin has worked with the Ipswich Koala Protection Society for a decade.

"We've been going for 25 years," she said.

"We had hoped that we wouldn't be needed anymore but we're busier than ever. What we're finding is we're (rescuing) the same number of koalas every year but they're in worse condition and we're travelling further afield to get them. More of them are coming in poorer condition.

"We've also had an increase in the number of road kill. We're seeing koalas coming into almost the centre of Ipswich."

The group works with Ipswich City Council to identify hot spots, which includes the Cunningham Highway, the Warrego Highway and roads in Blacksoil.

"What we're seeing is more and more interactions between people and koalas," she said.

"They're spreading out as development spreads out further. What we're doing is not working, we're still not learning how to live well with koalas."

Dr Larkin said it was up to "you and me" to preserve the koala's future.

About 700 trees were planted at the home of society president Ruth Lewis eight years ago. "They're not massive but they have koalas in them," Dr Larkin said.

"You can do it, you don't have to wait 50 years.

"We can give you a list a of tree species to plant. We all have our own individual responsibility. I can get very depressed about all the poor koalas I see and it can be overwhelming. When you have something you can physically to be a part of the solution makes you feel much better.

Call 54646274 for more information.

Council's koala plan on track

Ipswich City Council monitors levels of koala activity via scat surveys in key conservation areas and important urban populations but does not actively count the total numbers across the region.

A council spokesperson said understanding activity levels is more important for the animal's management compared to understanding the total number of koalas, which is "often extremely difficult and expensive".

"Council collects any other sightings and reports them through to the State Government and Ipswich Koala Protection Society. This is important for painting a picture around where healthy koalas exist as well as threats from roads and dogs in particular," they said.

"Given it is three years since the completion of the previous scat survey and activity level surveys, they will be undertaken again this year."

 

Ariane Ponting, senior environmental advisor at Powerlink , Paul Daly, project manager at Healthy Land and Water, John Young, Planning Officer (natural environment) Ipswich City Council.
Healthy Land and Water project manager Paul Daly, Powerlink senior environmental advisor Ariane Ponting and Ipswich City Council natural environment planning officer John Young in Grandchester. Cordell Richardson

When sufficient new data becomes available following the survey, the council will consider a further update to the work undertaken by ecological researcher Dr Ellis in 2016.

More than 100 wild dogs have been removed from core koala habitat areas since 2015.

The council spokesperson said a number of key actions under its Koala Conservation and Habitat Management Plan released in 2015 have been completed.

These include the development of a model and citywide map of appropriate release sites for orphaned and rehabilitated koalas and refined mapping of priority areas for acquisition, partnerships and offsets.

Habitat improvement of 20ha in White Rock-Spring Mountain Conservation Estate and 40ha in Mount Grandchester Conservation Estate has also been completed.

The spokesperson said the council is in ongoing dialogue with Inland Rail regarding the proposed Southern Freight Rail corridors.

"Contemporary koala knowledge is being shared between both parties to achieve the best possible outcomes in terms of koala movement and fauna crossings," they said.