Redland City Council has fully embraced the use of highly trained koala tracking dogs to help detect and protect urban koalas on Redlands Coast.
Mayor Karen Williams said Council had been partnering with the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dogs for Conservation program since 2018.
“Council allocates about $195,000 each year to the university to undertake research that supports our koala conservation goals and the detection dogs are an important part of that,” Cr Williams said.
“These amazing dogs can scent fresh koala scat (droppings) and lead researchers directly to koalas to collect scats for DNA analysis and assess their health, with some being tagged to become ambassador koalas.
“Redlands Coast has four koala safe neighbourhoods – in Ormiston, Birkdale, Thornlands and Mount Cotton – and each neighbourhood has two to six ambassador koalas that are tagged and monitored.
“The research team heads out with the dogs every two weeks to track and check on the health of each of the koalas and analyse their movement patterns.”
Cr Williams said the technology behind the university’s program was just as exciting as the dogs and Council was thankful for the long-term partnership that has been forged to deliver koala protection actions.
“The analysis of DNA from scats is really important work in terms of genetics and disease management,” she said.
“We now have a fuller understanding of the health and genetic diversity of our local koala populations, and this has allowed us to implement a number of innovative strategies to support koala health.
“This includes our Redland Coast Koala Watch program that encourages the community to report koala sightings, in particular sick or injured koalas.
“We are also rolling out a Koala Guardian program, where Koala Watch members will help monitor koalas that have just been released from hospital.
“The more eyes we have looking out for our koalas and the more data we are able to collect means we can do more to protect them.”
Cr Williams said the tracking dogs were an important part of Council’s community engagement program to create awareness of koalas in urban areas.
“Council holds annual events in each of our koala safe neighbourhoods, including guided koala walks with the tracking dogs,” she said.
“Our residents are always fascinated to meet the dogs and see them in action searching for koala scat.
“The dogs are a wonderful way to spread the koala conservation message in a very simple way.”
The University of the Sunshine Coast and International Fund for Animal Welfare are looking for another dog to help detect and protect koalas. More information is available on the university’s website.