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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Greens call for koala sniffer dogs in state forests

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Greens MLC Dawn Walker wants sniffer dogs used to find high use koala areas in state forests before logging begins. File photo

The Greens say a successful trial of koala sniffer dogs in a Northern Rivers state forest should be extended across the state but the state government has told parliament there are currently ‘no projects being conducted in state forests that require sniffer dogs.’

A 2013 trial using the world’s first koala sniffer dog, Oscar, to identify koala populations in Royal Camp State Forest, near Casino, resulted in multiple detections of koalas and the development of forestry operation plans that excluded Koala High Use areas from logging.

But following the release of data showing that the NSW Government has only trained three dogs to detect koalas and none were being deployed in state forests, Greens MP Dawn Walker has called for koala sniffer dogs to be widely used in pre-logging surveys to better protect NSW’s declining koala populations from destructive logging.

Last year  the government announced a team of sniffer dogs would be used to find threatened species as part of the Saving Our Species program.

But under questioning from Ms Walker it was forced to admit in parliament that only seven dogs had been trained in the program and that, of those, only three had been trained specifically to detect koalas.

‘This is a government that has an appalling record when it comes to protecting our koalas, with their own reports stating that koalas in NSW have declined by more than 25 per cent in the past 15 to 20 years,’ Ms Walker said.

‘What’s worrying is that ecologists consistently tell me how Forestry Corporation is failing to identify or even properly search for koalas and their high-use habitat before they commence logging operations.

‘We believe that the deployment of koala-trained sniffer dogs in our state forests will be a much more reliable and accurate way to detect koalas and their core habitat, than the current method that requires loggers to manually search through dense leaf litter looking for koala scats.

‘This is a government that is trying to weaken the already poorly-implemented methods Forestry Corporation use to identify koalas and their habitat, such as through scat searches.

‘It’s time they started to take koala conservation seriously and in the very least, commit to independent trials of koala sniffer dogs as part of pre-logging surveys with the view to expanding them across the State’ Ms Walker said.

A spokesperson for the Forestry Corporation told local media its trial of sniffer dogs ‘found they were no improvement on existing detection methods’.

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