Koala population discovered in NSW Kosciuszko National Park shows signs of resilience to climate change

Researchers say the discovery of a koala population in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales could mean the species is resilient to climate change.

Mating calls from koalas have been recorded at 14 sites in the Byadbo Wilderness Area Parks over the past seven months, at higher altitudes than usually found.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin previously said there had only been 16 koala sightings in the park in the past 80 years.

He said the find was “significant” and could contribute to the government’s goal of doubling the state’s endangered koala population by 2050.

“This latest discovery…means we still have work to do at Kosciuszko to help identify where they might be in NSW’s largest national park, but also demonstrates that they are persisting and recovering.”

ANU researcher Karen Marsh recorded the sounds of koalas.(Provided: Karen Marsh)

Karen Marsh was one of the Australian National University researchers involved in the investigation, which took place south of Jindabyne on the border with Victoria.

She said it had long been suspected that there were koalas in Kosciuszko, but it was never confirmed.

“There are a lot of parts of Kosciuszko that are hard to get to, so there just hasn’t been a chance to check out how widespread they are in the park,” she said.

The project involved the use of 100 passive acoustic recorders and searchlight surveys, and Ms Marsh said it was exciting to hear audio evidence and finally confirm the existence of koalas in the area.

“It was excellent, because I was sure there was, and just being able to show that there was, it was a very good feeling.”

Ms Marsh said the higher altitude made the habitat “a bit different” from where koalas were usually found and meant they could be resilient to climate change.

“Some of the lower areas might get a little too hot for the koalas as they are quite heat sensitive.

The search continues

Ms Marsh said researchers were hampered by the wet weather due to La Nina, but hoped to carry out surveys in other areas of the park in the spring and summer this year and catch a glimpse of the elusive animal.

“The next step will be to go out with drones equipped with thermal cameras and get an idea of ​​how many there are,” she said.

“Hopefully in the next breeding season we might even find more.”

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