Koala expert and guest speaker Dr Bill Ellis sharing his knowledge and experience with residents at Maryborough City Hall.
Koala expert and guest speaker Dr Bill Ellis sharing his knowledge and experience with residents at Maryborough City Hall. Robyne Cuerel

Locals urged to grow trees for koalas to eat and rest in

EXPERTS from the University of Queensland have compared the plight of Queensland koalas to the "canary in the coal mine" in an education talk in Maryborough.

UQ's Dr Bill Ellis presented research collected during the past two decades to a crowd at the Maryborough Town Hall.

Dog attacks, strikes by cars and disease have all contributed to a decline across most of south-east Queensland, including the Fraser Coast.

Dr Ellis said local conservationists working with the Fraser Coast koala population reported a high prevalence of conjunctivitis and dirty tail - two diseases caused by chlamydia.

"It is clearly a significant problem," he said.

Most of Dr Ellis's research is done on koala populations in Central Queensland and in Brisbane.

He showed the crowd at Maryborough the remarkable distances koalas are capable of travelling over several months and their reliance on trees that are not food sources.

He said their team had begun urging people to plant both food and non-food trees because the needs of koalas could not be met with trees such as blue gums alone.

Dr Ellis said non-food trees may play a role in helping koalas survive hot summer days, as they often had lower temperatures in the canopies than the species that koalas eat.

The Fraser Coast branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland organised the talk, which was funded through a grant from the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Koala conservationist Natalie Richardson said similar talks would continue to be held across the Fraser Coast thanks to the grant.

Ms Richardson said a partnership with the council to host koala tours in Tinana had progressed, with volunteers now waiting for the second meeting to be set with the council.

She said up to 50% of the Tinana koala population showed signs of disease.

The population on the eastern side of the Bruce Hwy had lost an estimated 100 acres of habitat and feeding trees in the past eight months through grassfires and clearing.

Koala facts

  • Koalas spend the vast majority of their time sleeping or resting
  • They will use rest trees, with leaves they cannot eat. Koalas in areas that have not been cleared will often use a different rest tree each day
  • Research by Dr Ellis and his team show koalas can tell each other apart through their bellows and use it to judge the size of the other koala
Interested locals asked questions during a talk on koalas by Bill Ellis from the University of Queensland.
Interested locals asked questions during a talk on koalas by Bill Ellis from the University of Queensland. Robyne Cuerel


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