Day to highlight plight of koalas

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In decline: A koala on the Mornington Peninsula. Picture: Supplied

ROSEBUD resident Dirk Jansen is organising events to highlight the plight of koalas on the Mornington Peninsula, including a koala day next month.

“Many people are surprised to find out there are still koalas living on the peninsula,” he said. 

“There is something special about observing wild koalas in their natural habitat and residents and visitors are always delighted when a koala visits their backyard or is spotted on one of the many bush walks.”

Mr Jansen said the peninsula’s small population of koalas has been declining rapidly.

“Like everywhere else on the east coast of Australia, koalas face many challenges, such as habitat loss due to land clearing and climate change; vehicle strikes, disease and dog attacks,” he said.

He said long-term residents are concerned at the lack of koala sightings in recent years, prompting fears that the remaining population is too small to be viable. 

A 2016 study by Deakin University found that koalas were not thriving on the peninsula, with no record of breeding.

“Many old koala trees are being lost through removal and dieback, and parks and reserves are not connected well enough for animals to move from one reserve to another,” Mr Jansen said. 

Koalas are regularly sighted at Somers, Balnarring, Arthurs Seat State Park and Greens Bush, with occasional sightings at Mt Eliza, Mt Martha and Tyabb, Red Hill and around Flinders. The only place where koalas are not naturally found is on the Nepean Peninsula from Capel Sound to Portsea.

Favourite trees for koalas are manna and swamp gums and messmates. Areas with mature trees are vital for the survival of koalas and other wildlife, such as sugar gliders, possums and many birds. Koalas are fussy eaters and it takes at least five years for young trees to grow tall enough for koalas to consider them as food trees. 

“Without urgent intervention, koalas face an almost certain local extinction on the Mornington Peninsula,” Mr Jansen said.

The Saturday 4 May 2019 koala day runs 10am-midday at 20 Kinwendy Road, Boneo.

First published in the Mornington News – 30 April 2019

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