Far Western New South Wales occurrence of a koala Phascolarctos cinereus
Ellis, M, Sheppard, N & Gall, K 1997, Australian Zoologist, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 327-328.
In July of 1994, a grazier 30 kilometres north of Wilcannia reported sighting a male koala. Prior to this there had only been occasional sightings of koalas in the western plains of New South Wales, mainly concentrated around Ivanhoe and the along the Darling River. This new observation suggests that koala dispersal or colonisation may be promoted by their use of the Darling River corridor.
The male koala was found crossing a road near chenopod shrubland adjacent to eucalypt forest. Examinations of the koala confirmed it weighed eight kilograms and was approximately two years old, and the absence of facial scarring and tears on the ears supported the young age estimate. Observers recorded docile behaviour when approached or touched; however, the animal displayed aggressive movements when capture was attempted. Once returned to its original location, the koala immediately climbed to the upper canopy of a eucalypt and rested. The morphological features combined with the observations led observers to the conclusion that this was a dispersing juvenile male.
This study highlights that male koalas are perhaps capable of travelling vast distances in order locate their own territories, as the studied koala was located 180 kilometres from the koalas previously reported by the local wildlife management service. Furthermore, as there were three eucalypt species known to be a source of koala food around the Darling River floodplain, it has been suggested that koalas are able to pass through this area. The absence of reported koala sightings in the far west of the floodplain may imply that any populations there are small or short lived; however, land use opportunities for local graziers may alter if koala sightings were to increase in these areas, possibly reducing numbers of koala reports. Improving relationships between local and scientific communities may therefore provide an opportunity to gain more data about koalas in western New South Wales.
Summarised by Caitlin Ford
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