Scat survey volunteers needed to track koalas post bushfires

This little fella was taken to Taronga Zoo to recover after being rescued from the Blue Mountains during the devastating fires which occurred at the end of last year. Picture: Supplied/Blue Mountains Gazette
This little fella was taken to Taronga Zoo to recover after being rescued from the Blue Mountains during the devastating fires which occurred at the end of last year. Picture: Supplied/Blue Mountains Gazette

If you're a competent bushwalker with a keen eye for scat identification, the Blue Mountains Koala Project needs your help.

The project, is in need of volunteers to help it conduct a series of site surveys of the Hawkesbury/Wollemi National Park, Blue Mountains, to determine where koalas have survived post bushfires.

The first of the surveys have already taken place, but more will be held in coming weeks: October 20-23 and 28-30, and November 3-6 and 10-13.

The project is co-ordinated by Science for Wildlife in partnership supporters San Diego Zoo Global and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

According to the project Facebook page, about 80 per cent of the one million hectare Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area was impacted by the devastating bushfires of 2019/20.

"Within this region we had identified five koala study sites where koalas were known to occur: we are heartbroken that four of those sites have had 75 per cent or more of koala habitats impacted by fire," the site said. "That's why we need your help. Mapping where koalas are occurring across the mountains after the fires is a critical first step in helping us to understand how the fire impacted their populations.

"Koalas can use anything from 5ha to 300ha of land each year, and they also use trees that are over 45m tall in some areas so they can be extremely hard to see. That's where scat surveys come in."

The scat surveys help the groups to discover what different species have been up to when no one was around to observe them.

"They are particularly effective for finding animals that are only in low densities after the fires," the project sight states.

"This project involves carrying out koala scat surveys across a range of different burn intensities and habitats, to find out where koalas survived. You'll also encounter scats from other species along the way and learn about scat identification techniques.

"You can also pick up some basic eucalypt identification skills as we will identify the tree species that we find koala scats under."

Data collected from the suveys will provide vital information for planning conservation action and koala population recovery.

"We need to know where the koalas are, so we can allocate resources to protect them," the page continued. "We are also undertaking ecological studies of koalas at some sites, including tracking them to work out where they move and what threats they face. This information is then shared with land managers including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the Rural Fire Service and private land holders.

"We can't promise that you'll see a koala, but you'll be making a big contribution as the scat surveys will help us to map where koalas have survived after the fires."

Volunteers are not expected to sign up for an entire week, but a minimum of two days over the survey period is desired.

Due to the nature of the terrain, children are not permited to take part.

Scat surveys will be held in South East Wollemi National Park around Bilpin, Colo Heights and north off Putty Rd, and also on public land in the developed areas around Kurrajong, Grose Vale and Upper Colo.

Volunteers will need their own transport. All survey sites will be accessible by 2WD vehicle.

More details about exact survey areas will be forwarded to volunteers after registering to take part.

For more information and to register as a volunteer visit tinyurl.com/y6jdxkgu.

Check out the work of Science For Wildlife here.