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Thursday, March 1, 2012

KOALA: Young deaths tally rises

IN reporter Megan Gorrey's excellent feature article, "Future's bright for koalas", in last week's Advertiser, I am quoted as saying: "We've only had two [koalas] which have died of less than old age".

That quote applied only to the 23 Campbelltown koalas that we have put radio-collars on. Our wider study of another 140 ear-tagged koalas includes many animals that died prematurely.

Tristan Lee is currently sorting out all of these records as part of his PhD studies, but most of the premature deaths are due to dog attacks and roadkills.

We consider that if a koala reaches the age of 14 its subsequent death can be attributed to old age. However, I heard recently of a koala that died in a car collision at the age of 21!

I must also correct an error that I made in that initial quotation. On checking our huge database, I discovered that a further three radio-collared animals died either from falls or unknown cause. Our radio-tracking records show that we have followed the 23 collared koalas for a combined total of approximately 170 years.

Thirteen have died with their collars on, and only five of these deaths were premature. In comparison, a 10-year study near Coffs Harbour that I've been involved in has had a far greater death rate.

In that study 34 koalas were radio-collared for a combined total of 33 years during which 14 died. Only one of those deaths was attributed to old age. Read More