January 22 2020
Relaxed and healthy: Rare spotting of koala pair in Grampians
Two koalas have been found in the Grampians in one of the first documented sightings in six years.
The rare find has been described as “fantastic” by Parks Victoria.
A member of Project Platypus Upper Wimmera Landcare spotted the sleepy marsupials, whose numbers were decimated by disease in the 1990s in the region.
Ken* said he saw the koalas out on a walk around his property in the east of the Grampians, the exact location of which he wants to remain secret.
“I was walking and a small branch broke above me which caught my eye,” he said. “I looked up and saw two koalas.
“They seemed to be really relaxed and healthy.”
Ken said he has been living east of the Grampians for a couple of years but had grown up in Horsham.
“I hadn’t seen a koala in the Grampians for about 15 years,” he said.
“I know they are around but there are certainly not as many as when I was growing up.”
“The chlamydia really wiped them out and recent fires such as in 2014 hurt the population.”
The sighting comes amid claims that koala populations have been devastated by bushfires across the country.
Up to 30 per cent of the koala population from the NSW mid-north coast is expected to have been lost, alongside 50 per cent from Kangaroo Island, the last remaining wild population not infected by chlamydia.
Project Platypus manager Allistair Stephens said Ken had told him the koalas were living amongst stringy bark forest, which was unusual.
“It’s not really their preferred habitat,” he said.
Mr Stephens said had had seen one koala in the Grampians last year but the population had really dwindled.
He said the drying up of the Wimmera from climate change was affecting animals in the region, with the future of the platypus another concern.
“I have lived in this area my whole life and I have noticed a drastic difference in how much it rains,” he said.
“(Project Platypus) have been supporting catchment health, so everything we do through Landcare such as planting trees is to improve the upper Wimmera catchment.
“With everything we are doing hopefully they will be ok but unfortunately the drying up of waterways makes it hard.”
Parks Victoria Environment and Heritage Ranger Team Leader Mike Stevens said the sighting was “fantastic”.
“Our team hasn’t seen koalas in and around the Grampians National Park since 2014,” he said.
“While we don’t have census data on the koala population, it appears they are in very small numbers having not recovered from a population crash in the 1990s that we believe was caused by disease.”