Sunday morning 4th December and John McCrystal and a friend were riding Shire Road to the summit of Mt Gravatt. John, a member of Team Fatboyz, was practicing for the Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer – August 18-19, 2012, he certainly didn’t expect to encounter two Koalas running down the road towards him!

Koalas travel 5 to 10km to find new home territory.

“They came running down the mountain and then starting running toward us on the road. They then froze in front of us started snorting, I think they were scared. We had to shoo them off the road. They then climbed the first tree they found.” John

John grew up on the side of Mt Gravatt and he had never heard of Koalas on the Mountain. I have heard from others that there have “never been” Koalas on Mt Gravatt and any animals found must have been relocated there after recovery from injury. This has always seemed to be an unlikely explanation because injured animals, including Koalas, are returned to locations as close as possible to where they were found.

Koalas on Mt Gravatt – What is the answer?

Southside Community News – Jan 2012

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Professor Carla Catterall, Griffith School of Environment, advises that from the 1970s to the 1990s koalas were not seen in Toohey Forest, in spite of many naturalists  walking in the forest and doing ecological surveys there.  This has been a puzzle given that Koala food trees are present in reasonable numbers.  Professor Catterall suggests that Koalas may have previously been in the forest then extirpated (local extinction) in the early 20th century.

Koala fur industry

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Hunting for Koala pelts was a major industry after European settlement. Who would want to wear Koala fur? The Koalas I have handled didn’t exactly feel luxurious and soft. Glenn Fowler’s 1993 report, “BLACK AUGUST” Queensland’s Open Season On Koalas in 1927 available at Australian Koala Foundation site, provides and insight into this unlikely trade.

‘Although (fortunately for the koala) not highly valued, the koala’s thick soft fur soon acquired the reputation as being a particularly effective insulator against the cold – ideal for protecting the human body from “the icy blasts of winter in Northern Canada and Europe”. Koala fur was renowned for its ability to withstand any amount of hard usage.’ Fowler, 1993.

For me, the really sobering thing was realising that as recently as 1927 the Queensland Government approved a six month open season on Koalas. More than 500,000 Koala pelts were delivered to market – a huge impact given the number of pelts that would have been unusable and the joeys left to starve.

Koalas returning to Mt Gravatt

Koala sightings Mimosa Creek Precinct

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Nature is now giving us a second chance with Koalas now breeding successfully in the Reserve and increasing sightings particularly around our Fox Gully Bushcare site: Mimosa Creek Precinct.

Griffith University researchers believe that there is more functional linkage between Toohey Forest and other forest areas in the western past of Brisbane than might easily be assumed: in spite of the hazards of roads. We have one sighting of a Koala successfully crossing the Motorway onramp however the recent death of a Koala hit by a car on Klump Road highlights the need for safe wildlife corridors connecting Mt Gravatt Reserve with Mimosa Creek, Roly Chapman Reserve and Toohey Forest.

Cathyrn Dexter, Griffith University, is leading a project with Main Roads Department which aims to create permeable landscapes that will allow animals to move around without having to interact with roadways: safer for wildlife and drivers.

We will draw on Cathyrn’s research as we restore the Fox Gully wildlife corridor to improve the chance for Koalas to move safely across Klumpp Road. In the short term we are working with Cr Krista Adams to have Koala crossing signs erected on Klumpp Road. While the active police presence is likely to have much greater impact on speeding, Koala crossing signs will be a valuable community education tools building awareness that nature is returning a special animal to our urban bushland environment.

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