by Janine Duffy
People all around the world want to protect koalas. Every one of them has their own personal reasons for that, and every reason is valid.
Working with koalas my whole life, my reasons for working to protect koalas fall into two groups: the love of the individual koalas; and the knowledge that protecting this species is very good for the planet. (1 – Ward 2020)
Every time I see a koala my heart does a little jump. It can be a koala I’ve never seen before, in an area I’ve never been. But when it’s a koala I know well, who I’ve watched grow up from a tiny joey, my heart does a big leap.
So this is a story about the 29 koalas that made 2023 wonderful for me.
They are all wild, I’ve never touched any of them, and I hope I never do. They don’t want that, and what’s good for them, is good for me. See them surviving is all the connection I need. I hope it means something to you as well.
Babarrang’s Family: daughters Djadja & Ngardang, granddaughter Lakorra, grandsons Kallama and Goim.
We’ve known Babarrang since February 2013, and she was a full adult then, so she must be over 12 years old now. She was only seen at the start of 2023, but that’s not that unusual for her – she seems to come and go over a large home range.
Her daughter Ngardang is our most frequently-seen koala. She was seen 32 times in 2023. Her first daughter, Lakorra, is still living within Ngardang’s home range.
Two of Ngardang’s sons were seen in 2023 – Goim, her joey born in 2022 was just seen once as an independent teenager in February. He was in his mother’s home range, about 300m from his mother. The last time he was seen was when he was still dependent and sharing a tree with his mother in December 2022.
The other son of Ngardang’s was really exciting to see. Kallama was born in 2020, and though COVID affected our monitoring a lot that year, he was still seen a fair bit. He was first seen in a different tree to his mother in November 2020, then he returned to share trees with her on and off until February 2021. After April 2021 he wasn’t seen again and was assumed to have left the area (which is normal for male offspring). Then to our great joy he was seen again in September 2023, and has since been seen several times.
Kallama did some impressive moving about in September & October. On 18, 20 & 21 Sept he stayed around the same area, moving 340m each time. Then he was found again on 20 October nearly 1km away. He was seen in that vicinity again on 4 November.
Djadja, Babarrang’s second daughter, also continues to live not far away. In fact her nephew Kallama was seen in her home range a few times. She was born in 2016, and soon after independence moved to a home range neighbouring her sister Ngardang. In April, Bart reported that Djadja looked up at some noisy Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and vocalised at them.
Goora and her joey Biyal
Goora has recently arrived in our area. She was first seen as a young adult in May 2018, then appeared rarely in 2019 and 2020, but has finally settled into a home range. She has had 3 joeys that we know of – one every year since 2021.
Recently I misidentified Goora as Babarrang and I realised they look very similar. Which makes me wonder if Goora is part of the family too. In September, I found Goora and Biyal in a tree just metres away from Lakorra. They were very aware of each other, if Lakorra turned, Goora would look away and vice versa. They were within Lakorra’s home range, an area that I haven’t seen Goora in before. The following day all three of them were gone.
Gulkurguli and Mear
Gulkurguli is our dominant male and the presumed father of most of the recent joeys. He has been ranging around a lot, but was still seen quite a few times. He’s looking great.
There is a chance that he is the son of Mear, and was born in 2014. Mear is a shy koala. We didn’t get really good photos of her joey’s nose pattern at the time, but what we did get is quite similar to Gulkurguli’s nose. The timing would be right too, we first saw him as a young mature adult in 2017.
We’ve only seen Mear on and off over the years, though it appears that she’s lived in the same home range the whole time. We first met her in 2012 as an adult, so she would be at least 13 years old now. Read Mear’s story here.
Bermborok was there for us this year right until June, but we haven’t seen her since then. We’ve known her since December 2012, when she was a young adult, so she would be at least 13 years old now. She helped out with supervision when Connor, Val and Mark from the University of Sydney, and John from University of Cleveland, came down to study stemflow.
Wemba will disappear for months, and suddenly re-appear in summer, often with a joey. Her most recent joey, Emu, stayed with her until February 2023, and was something of a mummy’s boy. He was never seen trying out independence like most joeys – they were always seen together, cuddling. Read about supermum Wemba.
Kiki, daughter of Yuyu, was living at Branding Yard since she became independent in 2017. But it seems she decided to leave in January 2023. Many long-term resident koalas have left their home ranges in the last few years, probably due to good wet weather since 2020. Read about Kiki here.
Yanabil was seen in January and March 2023. He was first seen in November 2020, but only seen a few times each year since then. Possibly our area is on the edge of his normal home range. (See his picture at the top of the story). He’s just been seen again in January 2024!
Murrkal is a new male in our area. Murrkal was first seen in November 2023, and his distinctive white star on his nose gave him his name, which means night in Wathaurong.
Myrrnie, a gorgeous female who hadn’t been seen since 2021, reappeared briefly in 2023.
Mongarrk had been seen on and off a bit since 2020, but his nose pattern was so similar to two other males, that I didn’t pick up that he was new until recently. His name means Echidna in Wathaurong.
Turntable Area of the You Yangs
Zack and Yuyu are the last koala regulars at the Turntable area (main carpark, Parks office and up Turntable Drive) of the You Yangs. These two koalas are what remains of once healthy population of 30+ individuals. These days they are only seen rarely – Zack was reported twice by other visitors and staff at the park, and Yuyu was seen once by Janine. Both koalas seem to be healthy and living in the same home ranges they have occupied since 2013 (Zack) and 2014 (Yuyu).
Freddy has only been seen once, in the area that Pat used to reign. He’s a very handsome young male.
Kalina and her joey
Kalina is a surprising koala. She seems to move around a lot. We only saw her once in 2018, 2019 & 2020, but five times in 2016 – she did have a joey with her then so maybe she wasn’t moving around as much. Always it was in the same area of Branding Yard. But then in 2023, Ranger Ruth found her in Serendip and she had a joey this time as well. Serendip is 6km from where she was last seen in the You Yangs.
In the Brisbane Ranges
Pete is a bit famous in the Brisbane Ranges – locals see him often. He has a favourite Manna Gum near a road we travel a lot, so we look for him almost daily. He was seen on 22 days in 2023.
Boom is a new male koala, seen near Anakie Gorge. Bert has been seen a few times near Steiglitz. Sverige is a beautiful female also near Steiglitz. Evelina and Mica visited our headquarters in Staughton Vale on a couple of occasions.
On our planting sites
On the Moorabool River, on the day we planted our 30,000th tree for the season, we found female Patsy. This was one of the most thrilling sightings of all – read about it here.
Then, on 19 December, at our Moorabool Manna Gums planting site we found male Morrie. Finding him was a bit of luck – we were visiting the site to replace batteries and cards in our audio recorders, and he just happened to be within 50m of one. Read our how to record koala vocalisations here.
We hope these two koalas are signs of great things to come for the Moorabool River koalas.
These are just the named koalas we saw, in addition there were another 10 in the You Yangs and 13 in other areas we saw just once. If we see them again and get their nose pattern we will name them. We keep a record of every koala we see, with a location, and tree species. We already have some koala records for 2024!
NOTES & REFERENCES:
(1) Ward, M., Rhodes, J.R., Watson, J.E., Lefevre, J., Atkinson, S. and Possingham, H.P., 2020. Use of surrogate species to cost-effectively prioritize conservation actions. Conservation Biology, 34(3), pp.600-610. https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13430