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Byron Shire
June 21, 2021

Koala study misinterpreted

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The picture for koalas is not as rosy as that painted in the article on Page 7 of The Byron Echo of 27 November.

We all love music and we all love koalas but the evidence is that the two do not mesh on the piece of real estate that the Blues Festival has chosen for its new home.

Tyagarah was home to koalas long before the festival came. It houses a small colony of this iconic but vulnerable species. Byron Council is creating a Koala Plan of Management and the lead-up Habitat Study identifies Tyagarah as one of only five areas where koalas reside on the coast of Byron Shire. Tweed Shire has none left on its coast.

The Echo’s article mentioned a similar 2010 koala study for Tyagarah but failed to highlight a few facts connecting it to the 2012 study, like the following:

The number of koalas found and tagged for the 2010 study was 11, which is more than the number eight found (seven tagged) in the 2012 study. There are clearly fewer animals in the area now than two or three years ago.

The eighth koala in 2012 wasn’t tagged because she was too sick. She died, leaving seven. The article says that of seven koalas tagged, three showed no aversion to the 2012 festival, two showed they had problems with it, one shot through and one more died (before the festival). I don’t call three out of seven a great score for a vulnerable species.

Many koalas in the Tyagarah area have disappeared in recent years. A letter in last week’s Echo verifies this anecdotally. The 2012 study only found one of the animals that had been tagged in 2010. The 2010 study found six of its 11 animals died during the study period (which included the 2010 festival). The 2012 study lost two dead out of eight found.

Animal welfare sources know of 12 mortalities at Tyagarah in just over two years to date. The Habitat Study estimates the koala population of Byron Shire’s coast at just 240. The 12 known to have died at Tyagarah are five per cent of our coastal koalas! As well as whatever could get to them 200 years ago, they now have to dodge cars and trucks, dogs, disease, loss of habitat, loss of corridor, and development.

As the 2012 researcher states in The Echo, he usually studies longer-term effects than just one festival. The long-term picture of the festivals’ effect on koalas is not good so far.

When there are no animals left there to study, there’ll be no effect on them. Is that good?

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