Koala populations in the area of New Hope Group’s Queensland-based coal mine, New Acland, have remained relatively stable over the past two decades, the results of an independent scientific study showed.
New Hope has collaborated with the University of Queensland and the Queensland Trust for Nature (QTFN) to preserve the health of koalas living surrounding its New Acland coal site. New Hope also provided financial and logistical support to the research team.
Over 12 months, the Koala Research Project tracked the population around the mine site and used GPS collars to follow the movement of koalas around the local area.
The device has enabled the research team to monitor the health of the koalas, arrange for medical treatment where required and understand the koalas’ interaction with the landscape.
A young mum, Jemima, was temporarily removed from the site to treat an eye infection common to koalas. Jemima tested positive for mild chalmydia, after which she was treated and returned to site once clear of disease.
Jemima was found carrying a young, unfurred joey in her pouch, and through the follow up monitoring of Jemima, she was observed returning to her home range while not showing any further signs of disease after the treatment.
New Hope general manager of coal operations David Vink said, “The interesting thing about this research was that it provided information about koalas’ health and activities close to the mine.
“We found they are quite active in their own small territories and that they live in a habitat that is quite close to our operations.”
Research fellow at the University of Queensland Bill Ellis said that overall, the research built on long-term data which showed the local population, while relatively small, was stable. Several young were reported raised on the New Acland site during the 12-month study period.
“We think there is a widespread, low-density population across this landscape. So building habitat connectivity, reducing predation by wild dogs and reducing road kills are probably the keys to future persistence of koalas,” said Ellis.
One female, Nelly, had been first captured with a joey in her pouch. On the final visit, she was found close to her original capture location. A review of her tracking data showed she remained close to and used a particular stand of trees along Lagoon Creek, close to mining operations.
With Nelly was her baby, Rosa, now around 12 months old and sticking close to mum.
“The Lagoon Creek system is clearly important to the population, so efforts to stop road strikes where the creek crosses the road are important,” Ellis said.