by Alan Lander
THE West Cooroy State Forest could become a national park as part of a plan to mix koala populations across Noosa shire, increasing the genetic pool.
Mayor Tony Wellington said discussions were under way between him, Nicklin MP Peter Wellington and State Environment Minister Steven Miles to change the forest's status as it acts as a habitat link between Noosa koala populations and others to the south at Mapleton.
"We know they're there,” Mayor Wellington said.
"It would be good to have them protected.”
The news comes as Noosa councillors consider a review of its 2016 Koala Conservation Plan and how to improve it.
Five koalas who journey across identified car-strike "hotspots” of urbanised areas in Noosa are being electronically tracked, with no fatalities so far, however it has been noted that where fencing along roads is incomplete or damaged, it's not working as well as it could, as koalas simply follow the fence-line until they find a break.
Contrary to strongly held opinion however, fauna underpasses are being utilised extensively by koalas once they develop the knowledge and habit, and despite perceptions predators will simply hang around the entrances and exits for an easy meal are not proving to be valid, according to council's environment staff.
The report indicates there are now 600 landowners who participate in the popular Land for Wildlife program, and council has recently purchased Johns Landing which contains significant koala habitat.
Mayor Wellington said council was working with a consultant to analyse location and health of koalas across the shire and better understand the hotspots to avoid koalas on roadways.
He said despite concerns about koala populations in urban areas, the hinterland was a different story, but it was a difficult task to assess overall koala numbers.
"It's important to understand koalas are most visible in areas where they live near human populations,” Cr Wellington said.
"But there are plenty of koalas in the hinterland; they don't come into contact with humans so much there.
"I've been working with the State Government to try to increase koala habitat in the shire.
"Discussions are under way to see if West Cooroy State Forest can be changed to national park.
"It's an important linkage between the Noosa hinterland and Mapleton.”