Koala population discovered in NSW Kosciuszko National Park shows signs of climate change resilience – ABC

By June 2, 2022 September 8th, 2022 Archive

ABC South East NSW / By Alex Hargraves and Simon Lauder

Posted 2 June 2022o

Researchers recorded audio of koalas at 14 sites within Kosciuszko National Park.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Researchers say the discovery of a koala population in the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW could mean the species is resilient to climate change.

Key points:

  • “Significant” population of koalas discovered in Kosciuszko National Park
  • Audio recordings reveal male koalas at 14 sites south of Jindabyne
  • The areas’ higher elevation gives hope the endangered animal can adapt to changing climate

The mating calls of koalas have been recorded at 14 sites in the parks within the park’s Byadbo Wilderness Area in the past seven months, at elevations higher than they are usually found.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said previously there had been only 16 koala observations in the park in the past 80 years.

“It’s showing that Kosciuszko National Park may be a new refuge for this iconic Australian species,” he said.

He said the discovery was “significant” and could help with the government’s goal to double the state’s endangered koala population by 2050.

“This most recent find … means that we’ve got more work to do in Kosciuszko to help identify where else they may be in the largest national park in NSW, but equally demonstrates that they’re persisting and recovering.”

ANU researcher Karen Marsh recorded the sounds of the koalas.(Supplied: Karen Marsh)

Karen Marsh was one of the Australian National University researchers involved in the survey, which took place south of Jindabyne on the border with Victoria.

She said it had been long suspected there were Koalas in Kosciuszko, but never confirmed.

“There are lots of parts of Kosciuszko that are difficult to access, so there just hasn’t been the chance to check out how widespread they are across the park,” she said.

The project involved using 100 passive acoustic recorders and spotlight surveys, and Ms Marsh said it was exciting to hear audio evidence and finally confirm the existence of koalas in the area.

“It was excellent, because I was sure that there were some there, and just being able to show that there was, it was a really good feeling.”

Ms Marsh said the higher altitude made the habitat “a little bit different” to where koalas were usually found and meant they could be climate change resilient.

“Some of the lower areas might end up a little bit too hot for koalas because they are quite heat-sensitive.

“So having koalas living at higher elevations, hopefully those populations are going to be a bit of a stronghold for koalas.”

Search continues

Ms Marsh said researchers were hampered by wet weather due to La Nina but hoped to conduct surveys in other areas of the park in spring and summer this year and catch a glimpse of the elusive animal.

“The next step will be to go out with some drones with thermal cameras on them, and get an idea of how many are there,” she said.

“With a bit of luck in the next breeding season we might even find more.”