Sunday 13 January 2019

From on board MV True North. Koala trouble on Kangaroo Island

#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: Southern Safari
Location: American River, Kangaroo Island, SA

Kangaroo Island koala at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (supplied)

Everyone loves koalas. They're cute, furry and oh-so cuddly, but here on Kangaroo Island (KI) they are something of a bother, not the least to themselves.

With True North safely anchored in Ballast Head Harbor(1) at American River, our half-day coach tour aboard SeaLink was ready at 7am to whisk us from the jetty and off into the heartland of Kangaroo Island.

Our first stop is at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately run animal refuge covering 20 square kilometres of largely undisturbed mallee and eucalyptus wilderness. Opened in 2011 it mainly protects some 200-400 koalas, with 20 or so visible to visitors at any one time, sitting contentedly in their manna or bluegum trees.

Now there's trouble in paradise because the koalas are beginning to eat themselves out of house and home, exhausting their preferred leafy foodstuff. What I had forgotten was that koalas are not native to KI, instead in 1920 a small troupe of 18 animals was moved to the island from Victoria where they had been savagely hunted for their fur. This act of conservation has been somewhat too successful with numbers reaching around 50,000 today(2). What to do?

Lethal culling has been ruled out, relocation back to the mainland is too stressful for the animals (although trials are still be done in the Adelaide Hills and Blue Mountains), so a program of sterilisation is being undertaken with the hope further population growth can be prevented.

Visitors enjoy Remarkable Rocks (SeaLink)

With our knowledge of local koalas considerably enhanced, we set off again for more routine sites, namely the iconic Remarkable Rocks and Admiral's Arch with its resident fur seal population at the far western end of KI.

There's time for more fishing and local sightseeing in the afternoon before another superb dinner from chefs Luke and Gav.

1. Early Australian spelling used 'harbor' without the 'u' in all South Australian ports, including Victor Harbor, Ballast Head Harbor and even Adelaide's main commercial port, Outer Harbor.
2. modelling done by the University of Adelaide based on 2015 survey data.


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