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Koalas on Kangaroo Island: from introduction to pest status
in less than a century

Pip Masters, Toni Duka, Steve Berris and Graeme Moss

Department for Environment and Heritage, PO Box 39, Kingscote, SA 5223, Australia.
Present address: PO Box 305, Kingscote, SA 5223, Australia.

Present address: Kangaroo Island Council, PO Box 121, Kingscote, SA 5223, Australia.

 

Abstract. In less than a century the ecological profile of koalas on Kangaroo Island has shifted from that of a species introduced for conservation purposes to one of pest status. Between 1923 and 1925,18 koalas were released on Kangaroo Island. Their numbers increased rapidly and in 1997 a population-control program was implemented based on a population estimate of 5000 koalas. During the course of this program, it became clear that the koala population on Kangaroo Island was much greater and more widely distributed than previously thought, hence a more comprehensive population survey was carried out.

In 2000-01 the koala population size was calculated using a stratified sampling approach based on five `catchment units' and three habitat classifications that were known to support koalas. The koala population was estimated to be —27000 koalas in 2001. There were substantial differences in koala density in the low-, medium-and high-quality habitat within each catchment unit, and therefore large differences in the spatial distribution of koalas across Kangaroo Island. This revised population estimate has substantial ramifications for the Kangaroo Island Koala Management Program that was set in place in 1997.