The use of signs warning motorists to watch out for koalas has been largely ineffective in protecting the threatened species, a new Byron Council report says.
The report into wildlife strikes, to come before next week’s biodiversity committee meeting, found that vehicle strikes were the second biggest cause of koala deaths after disease.
The worst hotspots in Byron included Bangalow Rd, Broken Head Road, Lismore Rd in Bangalow, Lismore Rd in Clunes and Bates Rd, Federal.
However, while reduced vehicle speeds were a great way to save wildlife, warning signs rarely achieved this.
‘The Department of Primary Industry and Environment says that measures to reduce speed, including permanent signs, seasonal signs, pavement treatments and rumble strips have been largely unsuccessful,’ the report’s author Lizabeth Caddick said.
‘[They] should only be considered (for koala management) if exclusion of koalas from a roadway is not an option.’
The most effective method of reducing koala road deaths, the report found, was the use of road crossing structures such as underpasses, bridges and culverts.
However, this was only the case when used in conjunction with well-maintained fauna-proof fencing and grids at road junctions.
‘This is supported by the on-ground experiences of Tweed and Lismore Councils, where monitoring indicates significant increases in road strike at points where fencing is breached,’ Ms Caddick said in the report.
The president of Friends of the Koala, Roslyn Irwin, said this was supported by the experience on Skyline Road, Lismore.
‘The monitoring on Skyline Rod found that many koalas were using the underpasses, not to mention a significant number of other wildlife species.’ Ms Irwin said.
‘They do work and, yes, the koala fences work too. The fences don’t need to cover the whole length of the road, they just need to funnel koalas toward the culverts.’
Yes, we are unlikely to see a significant increase in these measures across the Shire due to the very high cost of building them.
‘The most effective measures (fauna-proof fencing combined with underpasses) are prohibitively expensive to retrofit,’ Ms Caddick said in the Council report.
‘…but [they] do have potential for incorporation into new roads or upgrades…’
Ms Irwin said she understood the dilemma faced by Councils in trying to effectively protect koala species.
‘I think funding needs to come from State and Federal governments,’ she said.
‘I also think we need a broad approach that includes the different threats koalas face, particularly the very high rates of disease which are a result of habitat loss.