A preliminary investigation of the distribution of koalas and their potential habitat in the Tweed Shire, and implications for management
Faulks, J 1991, Australian Zoologist, vol. 27, no. 1 & 2, pp. 1-13.
The author of this review used historical information, past surveys, personal interviews and relevant literature to determine the distribution of koalas in the Tweed Shire Council region, an area dominated by natural habitat with prime agricultural land throughout, and consequently make recommendations about habitat management in the region.
At the time of this study, the shire had one of the fastest growing populations in Australia with increasing pressure on koala habitat from development, pollution, weeds and feral animals compromising the integrity of the environment. Historical records showed a decline in range and abundance of koalas as the species relied heavily on certain trees for food in areas that underwent clearing or modification. Personal interviews and other reviews analysed from 1985 to 1989 described a total of 120 koala sightings, and these records were used to produce a frequency map of koala sightings. These sightings combined with an extensive literature review produced an outline of potential koala habitat in the Tweed Shire, including areas of value such as regions with preferred food tree species and potential habitat corridors. The Round Mountain-Cudgen Lake area was considered most important due to it being one of the largest continuous areas of natural vegetation supporting the largest portion of koalas in the region and was also subject to serious disturbance at the time of the study. Other nature reserves, mountain ranges, ridges, creeks and State Forests were also identified as being of particular value for koala habitat.
The conservation of natural habitat is key to managing koalas in the Tweed Shire. The author suggests that in order to improve the security of koalas at the identified conservation sites, various recommendations should be implemented. These include protection of the most valuable koala habitats by classifying these as ‘nature reserves’ and ‘environmental protection’ zones. Education programs targeting the rural community regarding koalas and their habitat were also recommended by the author to improve community participation in koala conservation.
The information derived from this study and other local-scale koala distribution and habitat studies plays an important role in informing effective management strategies for koala habitat, and similar local-scale studies will continue to be necessary for future decision-making and conservation initiatives.
Summarised by Robyn Boldy
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