Koala scat for analysing.
The koala population on the Mornington Peninsula is under threat, and to protect these native marsupials, volunteers are needed to help with a very specific task: collecting koala scat.
Kelly Smith, from Federation University, is conducting a genetic study of the Peninsula’s koala population and is looking for volunteers to help collect scat. “By analysing koala scat we can easily find out information such as the gender, presence of disease, genetic diversity and the ancestral origin of each koala,” Kelly said.
This type of genetic sampling is more ethical because it is not bothering the koalas and is very cost-effective. The aim of the study is to protect the genetic integrity of koalas in the region and conserve them as an insurance population. Individuals could be used for genetic rescue of populations where genetic diversity is low.
The Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation group is already heavily involved in this Citizen Science project but more people are needed to find koala scat, particularly in the Arthurs Seat State Park, in bushland reserves at Mount Martha and Mount Eliza, and farmland around Moorooduc, Hastings, Baxter and Pearcedale. “It’s really important to find volunteers who can help with this project because more than 70 per cent of koala habitat is on private property and therefore most koalas are located on private land and difficult to access without permission,” Kelly said.
The original Peninsula koala population crashed after European settlement, mostly due to habitat clearing and koalas being hunted for their fur. To reintroduce the marsupials to the Peninsula, koalas were taken from French Island. The current population on the Peninsula is thought to be entirely derived from French Island koalas, which have very low genetic diversity. However, there is evidence suggesting some koalas from the original population may still remain on the Peninsula.
If you have koalas visiting your property and/or regularly see koalas while out bushwalking and would like to be part of this exciting project, contact Kelly on 0432 530 443 or Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation on email@example.com for more information and to obtain a collection kit. You can also make contact or follow the project on Facebook @Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation and Instagram @mp_koalas