Tag Archives: You Yangs

3 generations of koala dynasty: 1 year old male

3 generations of a Koala Dynasty, in one day!

Yesterday (21 February, 2019) was an amazing day. Grandmother koala, her daughter, her granddaughter and grandson were all found on the same day, in the same area of the You Yangs, near Melbourne Australia.

Koala Researcher Bart found Lakorra, the 2 year old daughter of Ngardang, hanging out in an area she had shared with her mother a year ago.  We last saw her in October 2018, four months ago, so we were thrilled and a little relieved.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 2 year old female

Then Koala Researcher Hannah found Ngardang, Lakorra’s mother. She was just 150m away from her independent daughter.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 5 year old female

Wildlife Guide Martin and his group came along, and while looking at Ngardang they found Bunyip in the tree next door. Bunyip is Ngardang’s 1 year old son (with Clancy), and Lakorra’s little brother.

3 generations of koala dynasty: 1 year old male

It’s wonderful to see a little family of koalas – mum and two kids.

But it got even better.

Just down the track, guest Carolyn looked up and saw another koala, high in an Ironbark tree.

Martin quickly confirmed it was Babarrang, the grandmother! 3 koala generations in one day!

3 generations of koala dynasty: 9 year old female

We think Babarrang is about 9 years old. Babarrang gave birth to Ngardang in 2014. Mother and daughter continue to live near each other – their home ranges adjoin each others.

Read about Babarrang’s Dynasty here.
Learning which koalas are related, just by observation, takes many years of research. We watch as koala joeys are born and become independent. We take note of their nose patterns, which remain a reliable indicator throughout life. Most disperse, leaving our research area. But sometimes we get lucky and a joey will stay. Some females set up a home range within, or overlapping their mother’s.

Then, if we are really lucky, a female joey will grow up and have her own babies, as Ngardang has done, still within our research area. And all three generations will be there together.

If Lakorra stays and has a joey this year, we will have four generations! How exciting!

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All this was seen on a Koalas & Kangaroos IN THE WILD tour, near Melbourne. The wild koala research that provided all this information about Babarrang’s family is funded by tourists who participate in this small group eco-tour.

 

Read more about our non-intrusive wild koala research project here.

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You Yangs koala adult male face

Koala population decline in the You Yangs, Victoria

Awful, but hopeful.

In preparation for our first Koalas & Tree Planting community event on November 15, 2018 I felt that a graph would best show the decline in koala population. Little did I know how powerful that would be.

chart showing wild koala population decline over 11 years

This is a terrible graph, charting the premature deaths of many koalas. But it is also a hopeful graph.

Hopeful? What??

Yes, because in the You Yangs we now know we have a problem. And once a problem is known, action can be taken to fix it.

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The simple fact is that the same catastrophic declines are happening everywhere.  These findings are in line with WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report, that shows a 60% decline in wild animal* populations worldwide.

But its hard to make decision-makers listen if you don’t have data.  Now we have data.  Now we are taking action.

At our Koalas & Tree Planting Event in Little River on November 15, 2018 we showed and explained these images, and others.  Learn how everyone can do something to save our koalas and turn this graph around.

See the presentation here.

An explanation of the graph

We started koala research in the You Yangs in January 2006 – ten years into the Millenium Drought: the worst drought in Australia’s history. The koalas had been suffering since 1996, and would not get any relief until 2010.

The first year of research gave us a foundation to work on, so by 2007 we had a clear picture of the population. We could already see that there were very few joeys being born.

As you can see, koala numbers fell significantly each year until 2010 when they plummeted. We lost one-third of our koalas over the summer of 2009-2010. Thankfully, the rain came in 2010 and gave us some relief.

chart showing wild koala population decline over 11 years

The next few years saw a return to near-normal rainfall conditions, and small increases to the koala population. But koalas living in poor habitat don’t breed that fast. Most of our females breed from age 2 to 8 years, and some only have a joey every second year. A few of our females don’t ever successfully breed at all.

Importantly, the trees have not recovered. The rains kept them alive, but weren’t enough to make them thrive again.

Here’s two pictures of the same River Red Gum tree, in 2008: 12 years into a drought (when you would think it would be at its worst); and in 2015: after 5 years of ‘normal’ rainfall.

And no, its not just that tree.  Take a walk in the You Yangs – the River Red Gums are in poor condition right across the park. See some other then and now pictures of the forest here.

comparison of River Red Gum tree in You Yangs from 2008 to 2015

Koalas suffer from poor tree condition long before we can see the tree is in poor condition.

The koalas and the trees of the You Yangs haven’t had time to return to pre-drought levels of fitness. And now, in 2018, we’re in another drought.

We have to act decisively to save the koalas of the You Yangs. The current trajectory is a recipe for local extinction.

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What can we do?

We can’t make it rain.

But we do have a plan. Plant koala trees downhill in the river valleys and drainage lines of the Western Plains. It was koala habitat in the past, and could be again. Beside the rivers the soil is wetter than in the You Yangs. The correct local indigenous trees will grow fast there.

Read how we plant koala trees in “Koalas Need Farmers”

In addition, on hot days, wind blowing across waterholes and dams is cooler than the surrounding air. Trees along rivers and around waterholes and dams are highly preferred by koalas on hot days.

We can stop the local extinction of koalas in the You Yangs region. Act now.

We will run another Koalas & Tree Planting Event: contact us if you want to be invited.

koala clancy foundation tree planting near You Yangs Victoria

How did we get this data?

A koala research project started by Janine Duffy grew into a comprehensive research project involving 20 people monitoring +/- 43 koalas 310+ days a year. Around 3600 koala observations are taken every year. Funding for the project comes from a social enterprise tourism operation: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours.

Echidna Walkabout’s Wild Koala Research Project is the only research on koalas in the You Yangs, and one of very few projects monitoring a natural (non-abundant) population of koalas in Victoria.

Read about our 2017 summary of Wild Koala Research in the You Yangs here.

REFERENCES & NOTES:

*vertebrate animals: mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds.

https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000s_Australian_drought

Anzac The Amazing

Written by Janine Duffy

We could tell that Anzac was amazing from the first minute. He met our tour group at the entrance gate of the You Yangs, as if to say “Welcome!”

That was 4th October 2007 and he was already a big mature male. We assumed he was 4 or 5 years old, but looking back now he was probably just a big, precocious 3 year old.

wild male koala You Yangs

For all of 2008 he hung around the entrance gate area, looking northwards to the prime koala habitat owned by dominant male Vegemite and female Mary. Then he made his move. On 5 March 2009 he went into Vegemite’s home range, then straight out again. On 13 May he was back, and this time he meant to stay.

Trouble was, Vegemite wasn’t ready to leave. So for three tense months these two huge males lived in the same home range. Vegemite was a rock. Anzac was a river. In time the river won – Anzac eroded Vegemite’s hold on the area.

By 18 August 2009 Anzac was the owner of the home range, and Vegemite had relocated southwards.

For a year there was peace in koala world.

But to be Anzac The Amazing, he couldn’t stay satisfied with one normal male home range. Anzac started to look east – to the home range of Merle.

Merle had been dominant male of his range since 2006. He was big, fit and mature. Smoky, her daughter Pat, and Karen lived in his home range. That’s quite a lot of females for one male, and Anzac might have been feeling lonely with only two females – Cloud and Aris.

dominant male koala melbourne

So sometime in August 2010 Anzac left his ladies and went across the road to Merle’s. This time he knew what he was doing, or maybe Merle had heard rumours and ran for his life – but either way, Anzac succeeded in taking over in less than a month.

2010 was Anzac’s year. He now owned two male home ranges, and had five females. His famous son Clancy was born in 2010 too.

mature male koala black and white

Anzac reigned supreme and unchallenged until 2017. That’s seven or eight years as a dominant male of not one, but two normal-sized home ranges. He fathered many joeys, and was still doing his best to re-populate the world with koalas in late 2016/early 2017. 

wild koalas mating You Yangs

That’s why we call him Anzac The Amazing.

We haven’t seen him for 3 months now, and we have to assume that he’s died at his post. His final triumph: he was never defeated.

He will live on in our memories and through his famous son: Koala Clancy (who looks a lot like him). Read more about our wild koala research here. 

7 year old male koala

Koala Clancy Foundation 

Koala Karma: a snake, a koala & a lonely Red Gum.

A ripple in the water caught the eye of Mel, Koala Researcher. “Look, an eel” she cried out to the volunteers gathered around the Little River, on Melbourne’s Western Plains. As a Wathaurong Aboriginal Woman, she had visited this stretch of river many times, and had sometimes eaten eel caught here.

But she soon realised it wasn’t an eel at all. Eels don’t swim on top of the water. Eels don’t have beautiful yellow and black bands along their bodies.

There was a sudden flurry at the riverbank as Mel and volunteer Jess – who had been filling water buckets – got out of the water in a rush. The Tiger Snake was swimming right for them.

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All gathered around to watch the snake disappear into the vegetation at the side of the river. They were there to water trees they had planted six months ago. This Aboriginal-owned property, Wurdi Youang, was one of the first private properties to partner with Koala Clancy Foundation to return native River Red Gums to the riverbank for the benefit of koalas.

The property is not where you might expect a koala to live. Acres of swaying, golden grasslands stretch to the horizon, framed by the blue triple peaks of the You Yangs. Kilometres of river wind through the property, but the only tree is a single, lonely multi-trunked River Red Gum. This tree clings to life in a place that would once have known thousands of its kind. It has at least three birds nests in it – a nest of a large raptor, a raven nest and a mudlark nest – and is an important home for birds, lizards, insects, fish and the odd snake.

We came here intent on providing company for that lonely Red Gum. For one Red Gum, generous as she is, is not sufficient for a koala. And in ten years You Yangs koalas, like koala Pat and 1 year old koala KiKi who we’d found earlier in the day, will need a home.

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All along the bank, green plastic tree guards could be seen. There were 500 of them in August 2016. Every 20 metres a grey green bushy growth appeared out of the top of a guard – these superheroes had sent their roots into the deep damp soil, ensuring they could survive summer. These few will be the mother trees of the future.

Others were desperately hanging on, 3 or 4 withered leaves just above the tree guard. But they had made it this far, so with autumn bringing cooler days they had a good chance. Still more were gone, sad circles of dust where the baby tree had not made it.

Life is tough on the open plains, and only superheroes survive. But every tree that lives improves conditions for the next planting – there will be shade for seedlings next summer, less erosion, fewer weeds to fight off. In time a forest of 20,000 trees will grow along this stretch of Little River: 10,000 moisture-rich River Red Gums to feed a koala, 5,000 leafy Blackwoods, Black & Silver Wattles to shade a koala on a hot day, and to feed Brushtail and Ringtail Possums and Sugar Gliders at night. Another 5,000 Silver Banksias, She-oaks, Tree Violets and Melaleucas to attract insects and birds that are part of the ecosystem that koalas need to live.

With climate change drying our forests and changing the chemisty of eucalyptus leaves (1), koalas will need moisture-rich eucalyptus in rivers and drainage lines on the Western Plains. Koala Clancy Foundation is taking action now to make this forest a reality.

As if to illustrate the wide-reaching effects of our tree planting, as we left a magnificent Spotted Harrier flew across our path. Her huge, black-tipped wings reached wide embracing the plains. Perhaps it was her nest we saw in the lonely Red Gum. If so, her neighbour the Tiger Snake had better watch out.

Creatures of the air, the trees, the land and the water had come out to show us that, maybe, when you do a good thing for a koala, you are rewarded. Call it Koala Karma.

Koala Clancy Foundation needs your help. Koala Conservation Day for Locals runs the first and third Sunday every month all year.

  1. Lunney, D et al (2012) “Koalas & Climate Change: A case study on the Liverpool Plains, north-west New South Wales” pp 150-168  in Wildlife and Climate Change: towards robust conservation strategies for Australian fauna.  View

Why do koalas change trees every day?

Did you know that koalas change trees every day? Just about every day we climb down, walk along the ground, and climb another tree.

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Now, I’ve got something amazing to show you. This is a map showing the movements of Winberry, the dominant male, over a month (just on the days he has been recorded).

map showing the movements of one wild koala
A wild dominant male koala’s movements over one month

Incredible, hey? He’s moved over 2.5km in a month! This is only on the 8 days out of 30 that he was found by our researchers – so he could easily have moved triple that.

Wild Koala walking along a dirt road
Koala Clancy walking on the ground

So you know that we change trees every day, and sometimes travel long distances each day. But why? Well, there are several possible reasons:

1. Social. Patrolling our boundaries/maintaining contact with our social group. This is particularly important for dominant males, but is probably important for all resident koalas.

Research is finding that koalas do have complex social systems.  We need to know where others of our species are, for breeding and to prevent surprises that can lead to stress, competition for food and fights.

2. Climate. Every day has slightly different climate conditions. We might choose a different tree to escape excessive heat, wind or cold. We choose different trees on humid hot days than on dry hot days.

Choices like these reduce our water loss, and help us maintain optimal body condition.

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koala in a Cherry Ballart – a frequent tree choice on hot humid days

3. Food. Eucalyptus trees have few leaves, and koalas eat a lot of leaves! If we stayed in the same tree for several days we could permanently damage the tree.

You Yangs koalas don’t damage our trees by overbrowsing – we are a very healthy population living in balance with our environment. Researchers have estimated that a dominant male koala in the You Yangs has a home range that includes an average of 20,000 trees.

Koalas need more trees than everyone thinks!

Koala Clancy's mum Pat in a Yellow Gum
Koala Clancy’s mum Pat in a Yellow Gum tree

Wild koalas walking on the ground

Koalas move on the ground far more often than most people realise.

wild koala walking
Clancy’s mum Pat taking a walk

The only time koalas are really vulnerable to attack from dogs or people is when they are on the ground.  So they are probably inclined to avoid ground movements when they feel that danger is close – ie when they hear humans nearby.  If you haven’t seen a koala on the ground before, that could be why.  They have waited until you’ve left the area.

wild koala crossing road
Wild koala Carninje crossing the road

In the You Yangs, most of the wild koalas know Echidna Walkabout researchers well.  So it’s possible that You Yangs koalas are more inclined to make ground movements while the researchers are near.  Whatever the reason, in 2013 Echidna Walkabout recorded at least 38 cases of koalas changing trees during the daytime hours (between 7am and 5pm).  That’s 3% of our records for that year. In 2008 we recorded it 23 times, and in 2007 18 times.

The longest daytime ground walk actually watched by researchers in 2008 was 145 metres.  The shortest was 5 metres.

Wild Koala on ground
Old male Tim Tam walking along the ground

Also check out our video of Clancy’s grandfather Merle taking a long walk!  http://youtu.be/5a5Zz8j-iAo