Adelaide bushwalkers enlisted to help koala research

(ABC News: Philippa McDonald) 891 ABC Adelaide


November 04, 2016 10:17:51

Koalas feed for several hours but can sleep up to 20 hours a day.
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South Australians are being urged to help researchers count the koala population, a marsupial which is abundant in the Adelaide Hills but declared a vulnerable species nationally.It will be the second time the public has been enlisted to help, after a 2012 one-day count by hundreds of people pinpointed about 1,500 koalas in the hills.Researcher Philip Roetman of the University of South Australia said this time the search would be over two days on the last weekend of November, so he was confident a lot more people would get involved.He said koalas were beautiful creatures and solitary for much of the time.”What is really fascinating is the amount of time they spend in the trees, they eat a few leaves and then they sleep 19 or 20 hours a day,” he told 891 ABC Adelaide.People can register beforehand which areas they plan to walk through and gather their sightings via a smartphone app.”When you see a koala you hit ‘record a koala sighting’, you can then taken a photograph — easy as that, if you’re happy with the photo you move on to answer a few simple questions,” Dr Roetman said.”Where are you, are there any babies, has the tree got lots of leaves, does it look healthy?”

A magpie pecks at an Adelaide foothills koala. (Audience submitted: Louise Howlett)
He said the count helped track the health of koala populations over time.”To conserve koalas we really need to know where they are and how many there are. Over time, we can start to look at whether that population’s changing,” he said.This time the phone app would also record locations where people did not see any koalas, he explained.”Everyone when they’re looking for koalas will miss a few. We can compare a few people walking on the same path, we can then work out where all the koalas are on that path and then work out how many koalas [some] people missed,” he said.”Then we can build into the modelling process some recording error.”More details of this month’s koala count can be found at the website.
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