Koala conservation in Burleigh: challenges, solutions and the community’s role

Endangered koalas in Burleigh were the focus of a Gecko interactive community evening with four experts providing a range of insights about how we can continue to protect and conserve this resilient urban population, and Uncle John Graham joining us with a Traditional Custodian perspective.

Here we bring you some highlights from our guest speakers; Fauna crossing expert Professor Darryl Jones, Senior Biodiversity Conservation Officer COGC, Tina Strachan and research team Dr Diana Fisher UQ and Jamie Holyoak, Ripper Corp drone pilot.

You can help protect our koalas and other wildlife by signing a petition to State Government requesting a fauna overpass across the Gold Coast highway between Burleigh Ridge Park and Burleigh Heads National Park.

Sign the petition to the QLD Government for a fauna overpass here.

Tina Strachan, Senior Biodiversity Conservation Officer Environmental Planning and Assessment, City of Gold Coast

Topic: Burleigh koalas – how population monitoring shapes conservation initiatives

Tina Strachan gave a history of Burleigh koalas, the City’s monitoring program, a view to the future, and how this work shapes threat mitigation to support a sustainable population. Tina shared information about the koala conservation and threat mitigation efforts by the City of Gold Coast Environment who have conducted surveys of koalas since 2015 at Burleigh Heads, Elanora and Coomera, updated every 2 years. Tina discussed 5 key objectives; – Critical knowledge of the koala health and behaviour; population expansion and management; habitat restoration; habitat protection; and, community engagement.

There are 61 koalas currently in the Burleigh heads area spread over 50% of the sites surveyed. Most deaths and injuries are due to vehicle strike, chlamydia, and dog attacks.

Report a koala sighting: Reporting koala sightings provides council with vital information. If you’re unsure if a koala is healthy, the individual needs to be reported to Council or Wildcare. If seen sitting on the ground for over 48 hours or staying in one place for an extended time they are likely to be sick or injured. Other signs of ill health are a wet rump due to chlamydia; conjunctivitis of the eyes, brown fur or being in a hazardous place or be an orphaned joey.

Report koala sightings to COGC: Report a koala  Or call 1300 GOLDCOAST (1300 465 326).
If a koala appears sick, injured, orphaned, in danger or deceased, please stay with the animal and immediately call Wildcare Australia on their 24/7 hotline 07 5527 2444.

Darryl Jones, Professor Emeritus Centre for Planetary Health & Food Security/School of Environment & Science, Griffith University

Topic: Wildlife Crossing Structures: overpasses, underpasses, and canopy bridges

Roads divide and isolate wildlife and make it dangerous or impossible to cross to the other side. The solution is wildlife crossing structures: overpasses, underpasses, and canopy bridges are being installed all around the world. And they work!

Professor Darryl Jones, an expert in road ecology or the study of fauna under and overpasses, described the success of overpass bridges and culverts/tunnels with ledges in providing safer connectivity for wildlife. Darryl presented information on some of the innovative new designs and discussed the most studied overpass in the world: our very own Compton Road land bridge in Kuraby which enables the safe movement of a variety of wildlife across a very busy road and even has documented frogs and reptiles living in the overpass habitat. Other examples in Europe demonstrated the importance of maintaining connectivity for wildlife for the safety of both animals and human drivers. Darryl recommended his book “A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road” for more detailed discussion.

Dr Diana Fisher, University of Queensland and Jamie Holyoak, Chief Remote Pilot and Endangered Species Survey Specialist, Ripper Corp

Topic: Koala drone mapping survey

Dr Diana Fisher of UQ has teamed up with Ripper Corp drone company, to undertake a 2-year survey of wildlife, and koalas in particular, in the bushland from Burleigh Heads National Park to Fleays’ Wildlife Park.

Jamie Holyoak provided an overview on the drone technology, how they fly to survey and the type of information they gather for the survey undertaken by University of Queensland and Ripper Corp. The drones are ethically operated by specially licensed pilots and hover 30 metres above the ground in a grid pattern using thermal imaging to identify wildlife present and their density. The survey will be conducted in conjunction with camera traps of koalas moving closer to the ground.

Community conservation

For more information about threats and actions you can take visit: “Protecting our Koalas” on the Gecko website.

Please sign the Gecko petition
to State Government requesting a fauna overpass across the Gold Coast highway between Burleigh Ridge Park and Burleigh Heads National Park.
Sign the petition to the QLD Government for a fauna overpass here.