Locals who have given up their time to track the shire’s koala population have been rewarded with several sightings of koalas in their natural habitat.
In December, Conservation Volunteers Australia called on residents to help them collect data on the koala population in Appin, Wilton and Douglas Park.
Regional manager Adam Woods said since the call out, more than 40 volunteers had signed up to the koala radio-tracking program.
“The volunteers have said they love it because there are not many projects that allow people to see animals in their natural habitat,” Mr Woods said.
“A lot of environmental work is hard but this project is particularly rewarding when you see a koala.
“Volunteers have also stumbled across other koalas that don’t have the radio collars.
“Some have ear tags which indicated they have been captured, looked at by a vet or are being tracked for research.
“The volunteers have frequently come across koalas that don’t have ear tags which is a thrill.
“The other night the volunteers found a mother and baby koala in a tree
“It is our most popular program by far.”
Mr Woods encouraged anyone interested in helping conserve the local koala population to sign up to a survey.
“We have a maximum of nine people on each of our tracking surveys,” Mr Woods said.
“January is nearly booked but there are still places available in February and March.”
Volunteers help track collared koalas and collect data on the marsupials’ location, tree species and habitat.
“The koalas are also checked for signs or stress and disease,” Mr Woods said.
“We are also trying to work out if koalas use different trees during the day and night so we can monitor their dietary requirements.”
Mr Woods said volunteers were trained to use the tracker and to identify trees, and they recorded data including the weather and location.
The surveys are carried out during the day, at night, on weekends and weekdays.
Mr Woods said preliminary data indicated that koalas used and ate a lot more trees than researchers previously thought.
The program will likely wrap up at the end of March. Conservation Volunteers Australia is looking to secure more funding to continue the project.
Conservation Volunteers Australia, with South 32 – Illawarra Coal and the Office of Environment and Heritage have been gathering information about the koala population between Campbelltown and the Southern Highlands for the past year.
Those interested in koalas can also attend workshops in February and March. Ecologists will discuss what the surveys found and explain what the data indicates.
For more information, visit bookings.conservationvolunteers.org/project/tracking-wollondillys-koalas