Koala expert coming to SCU

Koala expert Dr Steven Phillips (pictured) will be the guest speaker at a workshop being held by Friends of the Koala at Southern Cross University next weekend.

The workshop, titled An Update on Aspects of Koala Ecology, Conservation & Management, will be based on Steve’s current work in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, and will have a particular focus on projects in the Northern Rivers.

Dr Phillips is an independent scientist with more than 35 years experience working with kolas and is on the federal government’s expert working group.

“There is a lot of community concern and a lot of information to suggest there are rapid declines (of koala populations) going on all over the place,” he said. “But in some of the work we have been doing with wild, undisturbed populations, and I’m talking about large landscape scales of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of hectares... they are carrying diseases but it’s not affecting their viability.

“They have a much higher reproductive output. It’s only when we get to the coalface, where you have the interface of urban development with the bush that all the problems come in. Dogs, motor vehicles, loss of habitat, you see a very highly elevated rate of disease. That’s a common story all along the coast and koala organisations see the very worst, so people get a very grim picture of what’s happening. But in contrast, the wild, undisturbed populations are looking very good.”

Dr Phillips’ talk will also cover local projects such as the Blues festival site at Tyagarah and Skyline Road in Lismore.

“Council upgraded and sealed Skyline Road about six years ago so there are a lot more vehicles at higher speeds. I was engaged by council to have a look at that and put in an assessment that recommended some amelioration measures such as fencing and an underpass and it’s been a very successful project that shows when it’s done properly you can get a very good result,” he said.

The workshop is on Saturday, March 27, from 10am to 4pm (with registration from 9.30am). The cost is $10 for Friends of the Koala members and $20 for others.

Bookings are essential by contacting 6622 1233, or emailing info@friendsofthekoala.org.

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