Night Surveys Indicate Bongil Bongil Koalas Doing Well

Volunteers searching for koalas. Photo: Graham Tupper.


MORE than 60 local community volunteers recently gave up their night time leisure to take part in the 2021 Bongil Community Koala Surveys (CKS) program, which entailed 3km walks along National Park tracks looking and listening for koalas after dark.

For the fifth year running, koala numbers recorded during these 25 night surveys in Bongil Bongil National Park increased on the previous year’s tally.

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The surveys took place over five nights with 232 person nights of volunteer activity, which, at four hours per person per night, resulted in over 900 hours of volunteer supporter engagement during the program.

At four points along designated 1500m routes on fire trails, groups stopped and played a recorded male koala territorial call three times, each for a minute and a half with a two-minute break for listening between each call.

Answering calls from wild koalas nearby were recorded, as well as any koala sightings revealed through the use of powerful spotlights during the walk.

Sightings of other animals were recorded as well.

The 2021 survey season recorded 34 koala calls and sightings, which represents a 20 percent increase on the 28 recorded the previous year.

The nine koalas seen appeared to all be healthy with no visible signs of illness and were found on all five tracks surveyed.

This number represented a substantial increase on the three koalas sighted during the 2020 surveys.

Other creatures found included multiple individuals of the rare, funnel web-related large native spider Xamiatus kia, scores of Great Barred Frogs, many Striped Marsh Frogs, Bandy Bandy snakes, Golden Crowned snakes, Carpet Pythons, Sooty Owls, three wandering cats (2 possibly from neighbouring properties) and many possums, microbats and small gliders.

Owlet Nightjars, Boobook Owls, sugar gliders and bandicoots were heard, along with possibly, a new Yellow-Bellied Glider call record which could be a first in that section of the Park.

The increase in koala records indicates that the work of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff to stop habitat destruction and fragmentation, limit or neutralise fire impacts, reduce wild dog and fox predation, limit car strikes, reduce weed presence in core habitat areas, eliminate destructive human behaviour and proactively restore and rehabilitate forest gaps through broadscale koala feed tree plantings, can assist local koala numbers to recover and grow.

Even on the last night when the survey teams set out in light drizzle that got progressively heavier, volunteers enthusiastically undertook the work with diligence, camaraderie, intelligence and good humour.

Survey coordinator, Ranger Martin Smith, said he was extremely grateful to all who were involved in an unique and enormously valuable long term monitoring project.

He said the work of the volunteer survey teams is definitely helping the NPWS to better manage the wild koalas of Bongil Bongil National Park and that volunteers should all be proud of their contributions.


By Andrew VIVIAN

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