Koalas at risk in Inverell and what you can do like one Inverell farmer, Peter McDonald, has done to assist them.
Inverell Monty and Inverell Donny: These were two well-known Koalas in the Inverell District and have recently died.
Both, in their wanderings, were hit by cars on the Gwydir Highway.
Monty the older male of about 14 years, originally suffered a broken leg of unknown origins, but was struck by a car and severely concussed. Most likely due to his inability to move out of the way quickly.
Monty recovered in the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and remained there as he had learned to live with his disability but would always be compromised if released.
Monty died from contracting chlamydia. He was treated to prevent further spread amongst the other koalas that would be released. Monty sadly had a sudden decline and died from this insidious disease.
Inverell Donny was in the prime of his life and with mating season underway he was doing his best to secure his lady loves. A very robust young male and these are the ones that are most likely on the move and to look out for by motorists.
Donny was hit by a car on the Gwydir Highway on the 3rd of October and was critically injured. Pain medication was administered but he failed to survive the impact and was lost to veterinarians overnight.
This raises the issue of what needs to be done to prevent car impacts on koalas.
There are signs warning traffic to be on the lookout when approaching and leaving Inverell in this area where there are known numbers of koala populations.
I am posing this statement for your thought. Is the signage enough for our Koalas at risk?
The signage goes unnoticed and unfortunately, it’s not an area that contains a monitored speed zone, particularly in their breeding season.
There are two significant issues for Koalas in this area. Traffic and Disease.
Koala activist and Wires Rescuer Elizabeth Kakosche states in her interview with Inverell Times:
“Inverell probably makes up around three-quarters of koala rescues I see, and I cover the region including Bingara, and the Gwydir areas.”
While no research has been done to identify how many of the iconic Australian mammals the Inverell Shire has, Elizabeth said in her experience, there is enough to perhaps make Inverell something of a koala hub.
“Inverell has got one of the best stands of koalas that I’ve seen,” she said.
There is a push to create corridors for the koalas. This will connect the koalas and prevent inbreeding amd managing disease transmition.
The concept is for farmers to come onboard and designate areas of land that link together stands of planted trees to support the koala colony. Thus, keeping them off the highway and potentially reducing collision statistics.
The local Farmer making a difference: Peter McDonald.
One such farmer that has immediately stepped up to the koala pledge to provide assistance is Peter McDonald from on the Gwydir Highway, Inverell.
Peter, of P&VJ McDonald enterprises, and his daughter Lesley McDonald are staunch supporters of the wildlife on the approx. 400 acre prime grazing farm. The country has supported a successful prime crossbred lamb and boer goat enterprise and served the agistment of cattle through-out the drought.
“There are resident Koalas around the old homestead,” Lesley said. We often see them poking about the shed and the garden and we get to recognise them each as individuals.
“The same community of Koalas has been here for a very long time. We have seen different ones come and go, but most are residents,” explained Lesley.
Peter has kindly donated 2.5 acres in a corridor through his property in support of the ‘Cool Country Koala Project (CCKP).’
The ‘Cool Country koala Project’ is a collaboration of local land services on the Northern Tablelands to offer an Expression of Interest to landholders.
This project is to regenerate and replant native bushland and to install Koala drinkers in key areas.
Granite Borders Landcare, Gwymac Landcare, and Northern Tablelands Land Service are working together to secure funding through the Australian Government National Landcare Program.
Peter and Lesley are a great example to landholders in the area. Their interest and genuine desire to help cultivate good relationships with the koalas and with those involved in monitoring their population. This is what will help sustain the koala population.
There tends to be a stigma surrounding Koala researchers entering properties to conduct tests and observations.
“She said many landholders have been reluctant to acknowledge they have koalas on their property, even hearing stories about researchers coming across an unwell koala, but the landholder refusing to allow anyone on their land to rescue it for treatment,” Lesley said.
What the McDonald family would like to see is their neighbours in the area coming on board with the CCKP.
“We would like landholders to start thinking about linking corridors, so we are kicking off with Dad donating 2.5 acres and hoping others will follow.”
“Cattle breeders don’t want to inbreed cattle – but that’s what will happen if we don’t have those stands of forage trees for our koalas.”
Disease is sadly making its way into the Inverell area.
If these life threatening diseases aren’t monitored, treated when able, and contained, then the entire population is at risk.
I doubt farmers would leave a contagious animal in their herd of sheep or cattle for fear that the rest of the herd would contract the same. So, overcoming this fear of getting assistance for the koalas comes with the same due diligence.
Reducing the Road Kill
However, I return to the initial issue we have: Koalas and their current predicament of being on the move and having to cross traffic on the stretch of the Gwydir Highway 10 km out of Inverell towards Warialda.
The signs that are in place are not serving the purpose to slow traffic down and be on the lookout for these big robust males courting across the road.
The establishment of the corridors may well assist in providing sufficient area to stabilise the community of Koalas but it’s a hard one to imagine keeping them specifically on one side of the road in their natural migration during mating season.
There has been information suggesting tagging koalas with a transmitter that would cause a sign to flash when that koala is in the vicinity.
Maybe an alternative is simply to install signage that flashes when approaching this strip of road and forcing drivers to become more alert. This signage should remain fixed and monitored, especially during their breeding season.
Please feel free to add your suggestions here or if you can get along to the meeting today. I will gladly pass on any suggestions you provide.
There is a meeting to be hosted by NSW Koala ARKS and is retricted to Regional Group Members. Please contact Gwymac if you have any interest in assisting in the Expression of Interest.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0267211241
Sources: Elizabeth Kakoschke Facebook page and Inverell Times 3 August 2021. Interview with Elizabeth Kakoschke
Gwymac Landcare. Lee Thompson email@example.com
Lesley McDonald. Inverell.