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Latest Scientific Publications

Blue Mountains Koala Project Presentation

We have some fascinating results to share now that we are three years into the Project. We’ve come a long way from the popular idea that there are no koalas in the mountains, so far in fact that our research is indicating this region supports one of the most significant koala populations in Australia. Come and hear all about the importance of the World Heritage Area for koala conservation, and how that relates to the eucalyptus diversity that the area is famous for. There are lots of ways you can participate in the Project and I’ll share more about our planned activities over the next few years as we expand our research to new sites.

When: 7.30pm to 8.30pm, Wednesday 29th November
Where: Rydges Hotel North Sydney, Acacia Room 1.
54 McLaren St, North Sydney NSW 2060
Entry: Free (donations welcome)

RSVP to kellie@scienceforwildlife.org to attend

Feature: The genetically diverse and important South Gippsland koala population

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, habitat loss, bushfires and hunting for the commercial fur trade led to widespread population declines and localised extinctions of koalas across Victoria.

Mainland koala populations were later re-established throughout the state by translocation of koalas from island populations, which were founded by small numbers of koalas in the late 1800s. As a result, most Victorian koala populations have relatively low levels of genetic diversity.

Genetic diversity is important for the long-term persistence of a species as it provides populations with the capacity to cope with pressures such as disease or climate change. Due to a range of interacting factors, reduced genetic diversity is known to increase a population’s chance of extinction.

Using DNA sourced non-invasively from koala scats, research conducted at Federation University’s Churchill campus (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10592-018-1049-8) has confirmed that the South Gippsland koala population is genetically distinct and significantly more diverse than Victorian populations established by island koalas. Koalas in South Gippsland were found to have an additional 38 nuclear DNA allele variants and seven extra mitochondrial DNA sequence variants not present in the island populations assessed.

Relative to other Victorian koala populations, greater genetic diversity may provide South Gippsland koalas with an increased chance of survival in the face of future pressures. Conserving the South Gippsland koala population and its genetic diversity are therefore highly important for the long-term survival of koalas in Victoria.

The South Gippsland koala population currently exists in highly fragmented habitat. Population fragmentation and isolation are major threats to the genetic diversity that remains in the koalas of South Gippsland. Improving habitat quality and its connectivity in the region are paramount to the conservation of koalas in South Gippsland and the greater genetic diversity that they have retained.

Written by Faye Wedrowicz