The protocols for koala research using radio-collars: a review based on its application in a tall coastal forest in New South Wales and the implications for future research projects


1School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia. Current address: NSW NPWS, PO Box 2228, Jindabyne, NSW 2627, Australia.
2Genomics Research Centre, School of Health Sciences, Griffith University, Gold Coast MC, Qld 9726, Australia.
3School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.
4State Forests of NSW, Forest Research and Development Division, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia

In 1996, guidelines were produced for capture and radio-tracking protocols for koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) research within New South Wales (NSW). An integrated project commenced in 1998 to examine P. cinereus ecology and health status in Pine Creek State Forest. This project utilised intensive clinical and pathological assessment protocols on captured P. cinereus in combination with radio-tracking and ecological investigations. The methods used in this project were referred to the NSW Koala Research Committee (KRC) for review in mid 1999 due to the political profile of the study area. The KRC assessed the project protocols and reviewed the original guidelines incorporating some of the protocols used in the Pine Creek project. The outcome is a new set of protocols for P. cinereus research within NSW which are more explicit and restrictive than those applied to P. cinereus research elsewhere or to research on other species. In their current form the new guidelines require a substantial investment in time, equipment, personnel and finance; factors that may deter or restrict future, comprehensive ecological research on P. cinereus populations. They inadequately provide for some practices we believe important in minimising the invasiveness of P. cinereus capture. We propose amendments to the guidelines in the areas of personnel required, behavioural assessment, capture methods, processing safety and tracking frequency. We suggest that these amendments will render the guidelines more accessible to a broader range of projects, and easier to apply under field conditions while preserving the intent to maintain P. cinereus welfare and research best practice.