Strzelecki Koala Habitat Conservation Mapping

Friends of the Earth has had an active role in the protection of the Strzelecki Ranges since the mid 1990’s. After decades of collaboration with local community groups, the first hand back of land for the Brataualung Forest Park was announced by the Victorian State Government in July 2018. The Strzelecki koala is of vital significance to the survival of the species on a national basis. It is the only genetically “pure” population of koala in Victoria and South Australia. This project will enhance the long-term survival prospects of this iconic national animal. Strzelecki Koala populations are at greater risk of loss and dislocation due to increased fire risk and the small amount of remnant vegetation. The urgency of this problem has been compounded with the recent Yinnar bushfires which destroyed 26% of the best koala survey sites assessed since 2013. The project aims to use citizen science in assessing koala habitat and to discover new populations to add to the body of knowledge of this unique animal and its current distribution throughout the region. We anticipate the findings of community surveys will significantly benefit ongoing protections efforts of the Koala from local council initiatives through to state-level lobby efforts. The goal of the project is to map the full extent and range of the Strzelecki Koala using the “Rapid Sat” survey methodology. With particular emphasis on the forested portions of the eastern Strzeleckis. [“Rapid Sat” is a survey technique, targeting 4 preferred koala trees, which is ~7 times quicker than past survey techniques used in the Strzeleckis. This will mean 7 times more sites will be able to be surveyed than past surveys where 30 trees were sampled at each site]. There is an urgent requirement is to determine the range of the species, focusing on the monitoring of preferential koala feed tree species. These species include: Mountain Grey Gum, Blue Gum, Strzelecki Gum and Swamp Gum. Koala surveys will take place over a 9-month period in conjunction with local community groups and volunteers and will comprise of three key stages: Research, Citizen Science and the generation of a final report which will be used to inform local councils, VicRoads, DEWLP and Ministerial Staff of the significance of the Strzelecki Koala with a final goal of ensuring that the Strzelecki Koala is listed under the Federal EPBC act.