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Gunnedah may hold key to reversing koala decline

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However, this movement does put them at risk of being killed by cars or domestic dogs.

Gunnedah is an exemplar of how restoring agriculturally degraded land can have beneficial effects for both farmers and wildlife including Australia's most iconic species.

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There was one curious anomaly, though Gunnedah's koala populations were expanding against the state trend.

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are a great example of the coexistence of grazing and wildlife," says David Walker, executive officer of Liverpool Plains Land Management, who is leading the tree connectivity project. "Koalas and grazing animals both like fertile, flat woodland, but they also both benefit from a healthy landscape."

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But this impressive record is not just a chance occurrence. The koala population here is increasing a trend in opposition to the steep decline of koalas in the rest of Australia's east.

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land care groups on strategic tree planting to improve both their own land and koala conservation. Farmers are being advised to plant the right mix of the koalas' favourite trees which include river red gums for food and even Cypress pines for shelter and to avoid planting near roads and train lines where koalas can be killed easily.

"People may not realise how important farmers are Converse Chuck 2 White Laces

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to successful conservation. In an altered landscape, good conservation requires good management. And the best management you'll ever get is from an interested farmer."Koalas' brutish bellows are all for love.

A township of 12,000 people in the state's northwest, Gunnedah currently calls itself the 'Koala Capital of the World'. Although numbers don't exist to categorically support this claim, the town can confidently say it's home to one of the largest populations of koalas in NSW.

The iconic status of the koala belies its conservation woes. Although populations in SA and VIC are thriving, koalas across the rest of eastern Australia face troubling decline. In NSW koalas have, for some time, been protected under state legislation. Recently, the species has also been afforded Commonwealth protection, following a decision to split their conservation status along geographic boundaries.

On daybreak, course superintendent Ian Elphick says you'll almost certainly see a koala moving between fairways or drinking from one of the dams. "I'll see about eight koalas a week," he says. "They're usually shy, but big males might grunt if you drive the buggy too close."

The most current NSW information hails from a 2006 study, conducted by Mathew and colleague Dr Dan Converse Shoes High Tops Men Lunney from the state Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), which determined that koalas are rare south of Jervis Bay, and more common north of Port Stephens. Yet across NSW, koalas are declining, and in some places such as Iluka, they have disappeared entirely.

It's still unknown exactly how many koalas are left in NSW. "Absolute numbers are hard to determine, so we focussed instead on understanding koala distribution and how this is changing over time," says Dr Mathew Crowther, koala researcher from the University of Sydney.

Today, farmers are continuing to collaborate with researchers and Sneakers Converse White

In an exciting new project, some farmers are also planting trees to connect the isolated patches on their properties so that koalas have a larger, continuous network of woodland available, which is critical for their survival under the future changing climate.

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"We wanted to know what was happening in Gunnedah," says Mathew, about the koala population increase. "We knew many trees had been planted there some years ago, so we wanted to determine if koalas are able to use these young trees and if this habitat is helping their population increase."

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Converse Shoes High Tops Men

Attaching GPS collars to 55 koalas in Gunnedah over three years, Mathew and Dan obtained detailed information about koala movements. They found that koalas are not restricted to using old growth eucalypts and will frequently use 10 to 20 year old tree plantings, often moving several kilometres between patches to find the right food and shelter.

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