North Coast residents are being invited to play a role in helping to protect their local koalas by taking part in a national survey of the unique marsupial from 7–22 November.
The annual Koala Count, run by the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), employs a free, GPS-enabled smartphone app, NatureMapr, to record sightings.
NPA’s Koala Count coordinator Dr Helen Smith said north coast koalas, like in many parts of NSW, were struggling due to increasing pressure from habitat loss and fragmentation..
‘We developed the Koala Count to enable anyone who wants to help koalas to join other people across Australia in collecting valuable data that will be used to protect our iconic marsupial.’
Areas of NSW’s north coast, such as the Tweed Coast, have seen an estimated 50 per cent decline in koala numbers over the last decade, placing populations at a particularly high risk of extinction in the near future.
‘Despite koalas being such a well-known and loved species, we don’t know with absolute certainty how many there are. Our annual survey helps to identify where koalas are, what is happening to their numbers and how populations are doing year on year. With this knowledge in hand, we can take steps to help them,’ Dr Smith said.
‘You don’t need any special skills or expertise to take part in the Koala Count. Anyone with access to the internet or a smartphone can join. Count every day, or on just a single day – even one survey provides valuable data.”
Participants are encouraged to record both the presence and absence of koalas in their local area.
‘Absence data is as valuable as actual sightings as this help to develop a more comprehensive picture of where koalas are and where they are not,’ says Dr Smith.
As with previous counts, all of the records collected will be added to the publicly accessible Atlas of Living Australia, where they are then readily available for anyone who needs them. Data from previous counts has been used to help inform koala management strategies and to plan conservation projects.
To take part, people can register online at http://koalacount.org.au or via the NatureMapr app, which is available for both Apple and Android users. People who do not own a smartphone can enter their sightings directly onto the website.
‘The more people who participate, the better the survey will be. It’s easy, it’s fun and best of all, you are helping to make a real difference for our national icon, Dr Smith said.