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Hopes climb as cluster of cooler climate koalas found in Kosciuszko

Noah Yim, June 8, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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A previously undiscovered population of koalas in NSW’s Kosciuszko National Parkhas given researchers “hope” for the endangered icon’s chances of survival. Picture: David Swift media_cameraA previously undiscovered population of koalas in NSW’s Kosciuszko National Parkhas given researchers “hope” for the endangered icon’s chances of survival. Picture: David Swift

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A surprise koala population has been found in Kosciuszko National Park, despite only 16 previous recorded sightings in more than 80 years.

ANU lead researcher Professor David Lindenmayer said the discovery was “reassuring” and gave hope to conservation* efforts.

“It’s not going to solve the problem, but it’s reassuring that we might have more of a hope … than we originally thought,” Professor Lindenmayer said.

Baby Koalas media_cameraPrior to the discovery of this population, there had only been 16 koalas sightings recorded in Kosciuszko National Park in more than 80 years in the Picture: David Swift

He said more research was needed to estimate the size of the “significant” population but a few thousand would be a “substantial con­tribution” to the overall NSW population.

The Kosciuszko environment has colder, more arid* landscapes than traditional koala habitats*, according to a survey undertaken by the Australian National University (ANU) in collaboration* with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

NSW Works To Save The Koala As Bushfires, Habitat Loss And Disease Threaten Future Of Australia's Iconic Animal media_cameraKosciuszko National Park ­offered a range of promising conditions for koala conservation, including legal protections for ­national parks and relative resistance to bushfires and climate change. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Nonetheless, Kosciuszko National Park ­offered a range of promising conditions for koala conservation, including legal protections for ­national parks and relative resistance to bushfires and climate change.

“It’s in a secure place,” Professor Lindenmayer said. “Yes, it burns, but not all of it burns. Yes, it gets hot, but many places don’t.

“It has quite a range of tree species, which is very important in the life and universe of a koala.”

David Lindenmayer Professor of Ecology at the Australian National University in Canberra. media_cameraANU Ecology Professor David Lindenmayer said the discovery was “reassuring” and gave hope to conservation efforts. Picture: file

The koala population is estimated to have shrunk since European settlement from millions down to less than 100,000, according to the Australian Koala Foundation, driven mostly by logging* and climate change. Against these impacts, Kosciuszko National Park offered an “insurance population”, Professor Lindenmayer said.

“Kosciuszko is going to be one of the last places in NSW to really experience some of those extreme temperatures,” he said. “It will be … a really important refuge for beasties like that, that could otherwise be quite climate sensitive. I’m pretty excited about what we’re finding.”

media_cameraKosciuszko National Park is a cooler, drier climate than traditional koala habitats and until this latest discovery, sightings of the beloved species have been rare. Picture: file image

But while the discovery was welcomed, stopping koala extinction* still depended on climate change action, he said.

The Kosciuszko region was also unable to provide unlimited sanctuary* for koalas if and when other areas became uninhabitable*, since these colder climate koalas have adapted to the environment and were bigger, with a specialised diet.

Professor Lindenmayer said the ANU team would do further research to get a better understanding of the local koala population.

NSW Works To Save The Koala As Bushfires, Habitat Loss And Disease Threaten Future Of Australia's Iconic Animal media_cameraA NSW parliamentary inquiry released in June 2020 has found that koalas will become extinct in the state before 2050 without urgent government intervention. An estimated 60,000 koalas died in the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires. Picture: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Wild koalas are on track to become extinct along Australia’s east coast by 2050, according to a 2020 NSW parliamentary inquiry. They are listed as “vulnerable*” under federal regulations. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimated more than 60,000 koalas died in the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. NSW Environment Minister James Griffin welcomed the discovery of the Kosciuszko koalas.

GLOSSARY

  • arid: dry, barren landscape that gets limited rainfall
  • habitat: place or environment where a plant or animal naturally lives and grows
  • collaboration: working in partnership, combining resources or skills to achieve something
  • conservation: protecting Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations
  • logging: act of cutting down trees for to make wood products for profit
  • extinction: total disappearance of a species from Earth
  • sanctuary: place of safety, protection and shelter especially for animals at risk of harm
  • uninhabitable: unsuitable to live in
  • vulnerable: open or exposed to attack or harm

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many koala sightings have been recorded in Kosciuszko National Park in the past 80 years?
  2. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates how many koalas remain in Australia?
  3. Koalas are currently on track to be extinct along Australia’s east coast by what year?
  4. How many koalas are estimated to have died in the Black Summer bushfires?
  5. What two features indicate the Kosciuszko koalas have adapted to the environment?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Why?
Why has the population of koalas shrunk since European settlement? Brainstorm all of the specific reasons that you can think of.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Geography

2. Extension
Imagine that you are a koala reporter for Koala Kids News. Write a story about why koalas love living in Kosciuszko National Park. Don’t forget to include interviews with koalas!

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

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