Great Koala Search 2022
The USC drone survey, March/April 2022
So why did we want to know about the koalas we had living in the gardens and adjacent reserves? We had occasionally seen one or two, and suspected there were more. Visitors asked our guides and council gardens staff, but we had no real answers. We knew the Sunshine Coast Council, and scientists from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) were also very keen in finding answers. One expert told us, "you can only help them survive if you know where they are!"
We knew the USC Detection Dogs for Conservation team had developed expertise in using drones to find koalas in many sites in eastern Australia over the last few years, so with great assistance and cooperation from the Sunshine Coast Council and the university, a plan was developed during 2021, and search nights planned for early 2022. Our local university experts use a search drone late at night. Their drone has its own heat sensitive camera which can ‘see’ the body heat of a koala standing out against the cooler trees and ground displayed on their screen. Each time a koala is located, its GPS location is recorded then the drone moves on to search for more koalas in the forest. (Click on an image for a better view!)
Drone search follow up activity
As soon as possible in daylight, Katrin, the researcher/dog trainer, and volunteers went to near where the drone located a koala. An especially well trained university ‘koala scat’ dog then leads them to the actual tree where the koala was seen by the drone, (ie where the koala dropped scats). The researcher collects fresh scats (stored in a cooler box to carefully transport to the university)and they all try to spot the koala to take photos and do a quick visual check for chlamydia symptoms. Of the fourteen individual koalas located by the drone and operator over the three nights, fresh useful scats were recovered for thirteen, but only three koalas were spotted and photographed. DNA analysis of scat matter would later yield valuable information about each koala's identity, sex, health and inter-relationships with the other koalas.
You can download the university report (all 40+ pages) of the project - just click the PDF button left. It takes a few seconds to download!
Sunshine Coast Council produced a short video about the project. It can be viewed on YouTube.
Click this link - https://youtu.be/8FnwuobGQas