What faecal pellet surveys can and can't reveal about the ecology of koalas Phascolarctos cinereus

Olivia Woosnam-Merchez1,2*, Romane Cristescu3,4, David Dique5, Bill Ellis4, Robert J.S. Beeton1, Jeremy 5immonds6, Frank Carrick4,7

*Corresponding author, email:
1 School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management. The University of Queensland, St Lucia, 4072, Australia.
2 Terrestria Pty Ltd,Wynnum, 4178, Australia.
3 School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington 2052,Australia.
4 Koala Study Program, Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane 4072,Australia.
5 Environmental Resources Management Pty Ltd, Spring Hill 4000,Australia.
6 Environment and Planning Group, GHD Pty Ltd, Brisbane, 4000, Australia.
7 Ecolndig Resources Pty Ltd, Kenmore, 4069, Australia.

Previous approaches to indirect detection of koala presence have been proposed, however, the present paper identifies issues of bias, pellet detectability and over-analysis of information inherent in those prior techniques. We recommend an approach that reduces bias, can be consistently applied and enables information on presence of koalas Phascolarctos cinereus to be used to inform larger survey programs, 'ground-truth' predictive habitat mapping, etc. We describe a rapid assessment methodology based on indirect signs that provides a reproducible, statistically valid, time-efficient and resource-efficient protocol for determining the presence of this species. The application, advantages and limitations of this 'koala rapid assessment method' (KRAM) are discussed with reference to its role in the design of detailed and landscape scale P.cinereus surveys.