Photo: A young orphaned koala from a unique bark eating colony in southern NSW. (Michael Cavanagh)
New South Wales wants to protect a unique colony of koalas that eat bark. This particular colony, of about 900 koalas, are found north of the Monaro, in southern New South Wales, through to Canberra’s outskirts.
While most koalas eat the leaves from eucalyptus trees, these koalas also eat bark from the Eucalyptus Mannifera tree, better known as brittle gum.
Landowner James Fitzgerald has declared his property, north east of Cooma, a wildlife sanctuary.
At the sanctuary the koala’s penchant for bark can be clearly seen.
“What we have found is that the koalas seem to target particular trees,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“What we believe is that the trees sit on a particular mineral nutrient that is being drawn up in the bark and then the koalas are then accessing it.”
Walking through the dense bush it was easy to see many brittle gums with marks on either side of the tree trunk, about a metre from the ground.
Mr Fitzgerald described these marks as ‘test chews’, where a koala is thought to have sunk their teeth into the tree.
“You can certainly find one brittle gum in an area where there are lots of brittle gums that have been targeted,” he said.
“This leads us to believe that the particular tree is sitting on some sort of mineral or nutrient, whereas the other trees must not have as much of it and so the koala is not targeting it.”