Preserving Wildlife

All Abuzz about St. Bees Koala Research


The St. Bees Koala Research Project has been investigating koalas on a remote island off the coast of Queensland in Australia for many years, detailing the lives of these unique animals using cutting edge technology. In the last 12 months, we have recorded the bellow calls koalas make by following them through the bush to understand how they interact with one another and how they use their habitat. Our research is crucial in the fight to save remaining koala habitat and understand the breeding biology of this species.

St. Bees Island is a national park where no development is permitted and koala populations are safe and protected. However, in most of their range, koalas are under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, the side effects of human habitation (such as dogs and cars), and disease outbreaks. By contrast, the St. Bees Island population is unique because the koalas are healthy and have no pressures from human beings, which makes them a perfect study population and an ideal model for what might be possible in other locations. Because we can observe koalas away from their usual mainland threats, we have been able to publish papers on diverse topics including how they breed, when and why they bellow, what happens when they fight, and how they space themselves across the landscape.

These are building blocks in understanding what koalas need in order to survive into the future but also represent elements of their lives that are much harder to identify when koalas are struggling for space and trees among cities or farms that characterize much of their range.