Phascolarctos cinereus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA DIPROTODONTIA PHASCOLARCTIDAE

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus
Species Authority: (Goldfuss, 1817)
Common Name(s):
English Koala

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Gordon, G., Menkhorst, P., Robinson, T., Lunney, D., Martin, R. & Ellis, M.
Reviewer(s): Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category. This is a high profile species that varies greatly in population size and density across its range, and requires intensive management in areas where it is considered a pest species, as well as in those regions where it is known to be in decline.
History:
1996 Lower Risk/near threatened (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Koala was formerly common throughout the broad band of forests and woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus spp. extending from north Queensland to the south-eastern corner of mainland South Australia, Australia (Maxwell et al. 1996). It currently ranges from northeastern, central, and southeastern Queensland with patchy populations in western areas, to eastern New South Wales including the coastal strip and highlands of the Great Dividing Range, the western plains and related riparian environments where suitable habitat occurs, Victoria, and southeastern South Australia. The geographic range has contracted significantly due to loss of large areas of habitat since European settlement. In Queensland, extent of occurrence and area of occupancy have contracted by about 30% (Gordon et al. 2006).

It has been introduced to at least 12 islands including: Kangaroo (South Australia, 450,000 ha), French (Victoria, 17,470 ha), Phillip (Victoria, 10,116 ha), and Magnetic (Queensland, 5,200 ha) (Abbott and Burbidge 1995). It has also been introduced within the mainland in the Adelaide Region and along the Murray River (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Countries:
Native:
Australia
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Koalas are uncommon and patchily distributed in most of their Queensland range, but are common in south-eastern Queensland. Queensland populations have persisted where habitat occurs, although fluctuating markedly in size (Gordon and Hrdina 2005; Gordon et al. 2006). They are widespread and common in Victoria. In New South Wales, they are known to be common in the Pilliga (the species' stronghold is along the north coast), but they are uncommon elsewhere. All South Australian populations became extinct by 1920, and current populations have been introduced outside their original range with the exception of the extreme south-east of the state. The introduced populations have expanded and caused severe environmental damage on Kangaroo Island (current population estimates on Kangaroo Island are of 28,000 - these animals are highly inbred, resulting from a very small original source population of 10 animals). The Koala was listed in the 2001 State of the Environment report of the Commonwealth as one of the eight pest species of Australia.

While remaining populations are widely distributed, habitat fragmentation and modification has resulted in an increased prevalence of predation, in addition to geographic and genetic isolation (Maxwell et al. 1996).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Koalas occupy forests and woodlands where there are acceptable food trees. They are largely nocturnal and feed almost exclusively on eucalypts, but preferred food tree species vary with locality and there are quite distinct regional preferences (Martin et al. 2008). They are able to persist in fragmented habitats, and even survive in isolated trees across a predominantly agricultural landscape. Females reach sexual maturity at two years of age and usually give birth to a single young per year. Individual Koalas have been known to live up to 18 years in the wild, but most live between 10 and 14 years (Martin et al. 2008).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Current threats to this species include continued habitat destruction, fragmentation, and modification (which makes them vulnerable to predation by dogs, vehicle strikes, and other factors), bushfires, and disease, as well as drought associated mortality in habitat fragments. Public concern for the species is high. There are management problems with many populations; remnant populations living at high densities in isolated patches of habitat are at greatest risk (Martin et al. 2008). Effective management of some of the threats on the mainland could lead to excessive abundance and result in pest problems similar to those occurring on Kangaroo Island and in parts of Victoria.

The overall distribution of Koalas has been reduced since European settlement. This decline was primarily due to disease, bushfires, and widespread habitat destruction in the early decades of the 20th century. Commercial harvesting also took place across the range towards the end of the 19th century and early 20th century (huge numbers, running into the millions, were killed for their pelts for a large export industry in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland). This was banned in Victoria in the 1890s, and it continued sporadically (and under regulation) in Queensland until 1927 (Hrdina and Gordon 2004). There is no evidence, however, that the early spate of commercial harvesting had any long-term impact on the overall population.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in numerous protected areas. Recommended actions for the species (Maxwell et al. 1996; Martin and Handasyde 1999; Gordon pers. comm.) include: complete and implement National Strategy for Conservation of the Koala (currently in draft form); develop appropriate PVA models applicable to the diversity of habitat types utilised by the species; conduct regional and local surveys of distribution, assessment of tree preferences and identification of key critical habitat areas for conservation; formulate and implement detailed regional management plans for the conservation of these populations; manage populations to prevent over-browsing at some sites in Victoria and South Australia; develop positive community involvement in Koala conservation and management.

Bibliography [top]

Abbott, I. and Burbidge, A.A. 1995. The occurrence of mammal species on the islands of Australia: a summary of existing knowledge. CALMScience 1(3): 259-324.

Gordon, G. and Hrdina, F. 2005. Koala and Possum Populations in Queensland during the Harvest Period, 1906-1936. Australian Zoologist 33: 69-99.

Gordon, G., Hrdina, F. and Patterson, R. 2006. Decline in the distribution of the koala Phascolarctos cinereus in Queensland. Australian Zoologist 33: 345-358.

Hrdina, F. and Gordon, G. 2004. The Koala and Possum Trade in Queensland, 1906-1936. Australian Zoologist 32: 543-585.

Lee, A. K. and Martin, R. E. 1988. The koala: a natural history. University of NSW Press, Sydney, Australia.

Lee, A. K., Handasyde, K. A. and Sanson, G. D. 1991. The biology of the koala. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia.

Martin, R. W. 1989. Draft management plan for the conservation of the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series Number 99..

Martin, R. W. and Handasyde, K. A. 1999. The Koala: Natural History, Biology and Conservation. UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia.

Martin, R. W., Handasyde, K. A. and Krockenberger, A. 2008. Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus. In: S. Van Dyck and R. Strahan (eds), The mammals of Australia. Third Edition, pp. 198-201. Reed New Holland, Sydney, Australia.

Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. A. and Morris, K. 1996. The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland, Switzerland.

Menkhorst, P. W. 1995. Koala. In: P. W. Menkhorst (ed.), Mammals of Victoria, pp. 85-88. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Australia.


Citation: Gordon, G., Menkhorst, P., Robinson, T., Lunney, D., Martin, R. & Ellis, M. 2008. Phascolarctos cinereus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 25 October 2014.
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