Origin of name:
We first found Smoky on 30 January 2006, while a devastating bushfire was raging in the nearby Brisbane Ranges. The air was full of smoke.
We lost a healthy koala community and 27 much-loved koalas to that bushfire. From 1992 to 2006 all our tours had visited the Brisbane Ranges to see koalas. Our Koala Research started there, and was building into an important project. But the fast and hot fire that started on 21 January wiped out 90% of the koalas in that area, and changed the landscape so greatly that it became impossible for us to take tours into the park for many years.
Read more about the 2006 Brisbane Ranges Fire.
Desperate for something positive, and with a business to run, we explored the You Yangs as a potential koala site. Luckily we found a healthy koala population there. Within three days we had found Smoky and her tiny daughter Pat.
Seeing new life gave us hope. Little did we know that Pat was to become the most important koala we had ever known – we have monitored her since she was a dependent joey, all the way through her long and successful wild life. Her son, and Smoky’s grandson, Koala Clancy is the most famous wild koala in the world, the mascot of a tree-planting koala charity, and his birthday May 3 marks international Wild Koala Day.
How often seen:
Smoky was seen very often from January 2006 to December 2012, when she died of old age.
Her teeth and skull were in good condition, but showed her to be of advanced age – certainly over 9 years, probably closer to 12 to 14. Her right upper premolar was missing, but left premolar was flat and almost worn through into two root stubs, first molars (both sides) were flat, and wear showing on molar M2.
See a Koala Tooth Wear for Age Determination Diagram at this link.
Her only known family is her famous daughter Pat, and her sons Pitta, Clancy & Banjo and their progeny.
It is likely that Smoky had other offspring during her long life, before we met her.
Smoky lived with Pat sharing her home range for the whole of her life. Females Karen, Raini, Rosa and Eureka shared part of her home range. Males Calvin, Merle and Anzac lived nearby.
Survived extreme heat/drought catastrophes:
Smoky survived the following extreme heat waves and droughts.
Millenium Drought 1996 – 2010. Amazingly, Smoky had joey Pat during the later stages of this drought – one of the few females who bred at this terrible time.
2009 Southeastern Australia Heat Wave: 27 January to 7 February (3 consecutive days over 42C, then a record high of 48C on 7/2/09). This heatwave led to the Black Saturday bushfires in other parts of Victoria.
Smoky looks down at Janine in this beautiful video by National Geographic:
How do we have so much research data about Smoky?
Echidna Walkabout’s Wild Koala Research Project has been monitoring the koalas of the You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges for 21 years. In 1998 we discovered a non-intrusive method of identifying koalas by their natural nose markings (nose patterns). Since then we have been collecting koala research data during tours, and using it to advocate for koalas, plant trees where they are most needed, and remove weeds to improve koala habitat.
Koala Researchers employed by Echidna Walkabout are paid to find koalas and collect information +/- 310 days every year.
All our tour guests play an important part in this research, by making it possible through funding, and by looking out for koalas on our tours.