Donation to support koalas in KI bushfire recovery
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.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park’s Dana and Sam Mitchell.
This three year research project will allow the Flinders team to apply successful research methods they have employed to examine other species in intricate detail, recording details of gut health and reproduction patterns, through to assessing whether the koalas are having an impact on surviving trees through over-browsing.
The Flinders team will also engage citizen scientists and tourists to participate in monitoring and recording details about each of the individually microchipped koalas.
‘By doing this we will establish very detailed individual profiles of surviving koalas that can give us a unique insight into how this population is recovering from the fire,’ says Professor Burke Da Silva.
Commencing later in 2021, the KI Wildlife Park will also fund a Flinders-led $300,000 Koala Genetic Rescue Program enabling researchers at the University to identify problems that arise from in-breeding within small koala populations.
‘What we learn from here will be able to be applied across South Australia to help other vulnerable koala populations,’ says Professor Burke Da Silva. ‘It’s research that will have a lasting effect.’
You consent to the use of our cookies if you proceed.