When horrific bushfires raged through Kangaroo Island in January 2020 up to 80 per cent of the island’s koala population was killed. The fire also destroyed 210,000 hectares of their habitat and food supplies, impacting the survival of the estimated 8,500 remaining animals.
To ensure the good health of this embattled koala population, research is needed to study the surviving koalas and help steer their best possible chance to repopulate and flourish.
A $150,000 donation by Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park will enable a Flinders University research project led by Professor Karen Burke Da Silva, Dean of Education in the College of Science and Engineering at Flinders University.
Professor Burke Da Silva was approached by KI Wildlife Park owners Sam and Dana Mitchell at the recommendation of two Flinders alumni who now work for them – Billy Dunlop (BSc ’14) and Michaela Haska (BSc(Hons) ’15). The graduates were among a dedicated group of rescuers who brought over 650 injured koalas to an emergency triage centre established by the KI Wildlife Park at Parndana during the devastating bushfires.
So far, 250 of these rehabilitated koalas have been released back into their natural habitat, which includes a 53-hectare bush block in the KI Wildlife Park.