Low-density koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) populations in the mulgalands of south-west Queensland. IV. Abundance and conservation status
B. J. Sullivan, G. S. Baxter, A. T. Lisle, L. Pahl and W. M. Norris
31(1) 19 - 29
Published: 25 March 2004
Urban encroachment on dense, coastal koala populations has ensured that their management has received increasing government and public attention. The recently developed National Koala Conservation Strategy calls for maintenance of viable populations in the wild. Yet the success of this, and other, conservation initiatives is hampered by lack of reliable and generally accepted national and regional population estimates. In this paper we address this problem in a potentially large, but poorly studied, regional population in the State that is likely to have the largest wild populations. We draw on findings from previous reports in this series and apply the faecal standing-crop method (FSCM) to derive a regional estimate of more than 59 000 individuals. Validation trials in riverine communities showed that estimates of animal density obtained from the FSCM and direct observation were in close agreement. Bootstrapping and Monte Carlo simulations were used to obtain variance estimates for our population estimates in different vegetation associations across the region. The most favoured habitat was riverine vegetation, which covered only 0.9% of the region but supported 45% of the koalas. We also estimated that between 1969 and 1995 ~30% of the native vegetation associations that are considered as potential koala habitat were cleared, leading to a decline of perhaps 10% in koala numbers. Management of this large regional population has significant implications for the national conservation of the species: the continued viability of this population is critically dependent on the retention and management of riverine and residual vegetation communities, and future vegetation-management guidelines should be cognisant of the potential impacts of clearing even small areas of critical habitat. We also highlight eight management implications.
Full text doi:10.1071/WR02037
© CSIRO 2004