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The koalas of Campbelltown, south-western Sydney: does their natural history foretell of an unnatural future?

Lunney, D., Close, R., Bryant, J., Crowther, M.S., Shannon, I., Madden, K. and Ward, S. (2010) The koalas of Campbelltown, south-western Sydney: does their natural history foretell of an unnatural future? In: Lunney, D., Hutchings, P. and Hochuli, D., (eds.) The Natural History of Sydney. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW, Australia, pp. 339-370.

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The objective of this study was to relate the spread of the human population of Sydney to the natural history of the koala population in Campbelltown on its south-western edge. The first ever report of a koala by Europeans was near Bargo, just south of Campbelltown in 1798, making this population of great historical interest. In 1986, a housing development was approved in the Campbelltown suburb of Wedderburn, which threw the local koala population into the public and political spotlight. This peri-urban koala population is under threat from traffic from the Appin Road, potential construction of the Georges River Parkway and increasing urbanisation. Retaining a connection to other koala populations to the south is also important to conserving Campbelltown koalas. State Environmental Planning Policy Number 44 i.e. SEPP 44 (Koala Habitat Protection) requires two independent data sources to map koala habitat in a Local Government Area. Our study examined the value of using multiple independent data sets, generated from different methods, to establish the location of koalas in the Campbelltown area, and beyond, and derive a more reliable distribution map than those currently available. This provided a test of the value of independent data sets to establish the location of a population of a species that has had such an impact on the planning system. Further, this study gave us the ability to utilise modelled koala habitat from the local area, employ information from long-term population studies, particularly home range studies, enlist community data to support koala conservation, and assess the effectiveness of koala habitat conservation efforts in the area. The long-term future of this koala population depends on maintaining the integrity of koala habitat throughout the region, as well as in the Campbelltown LGA. Only a long-term commitment to koalas and their habitat will prevent the natural history of Campbelltown's koalas transforming into an unnatural future over the next 210 years.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
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