Citizen scientist, Lilly Schwartz is on a mission to count as many koalas living in The Hills as possible and she needs your help!
Lilly will be giving a special talk about her crucial work, which looks at koala numbers and habitats in The Hills, at the Community Environment Centre in Annangrove on Thursday 26 October.
Ahead of her workshop, Focus caught up with Lilly to talk about how she got involved in counting koalas and why it’s so important to understand more about these native animals which have been placed on the endangered species list (on the East Coast of Australia only).
This is what she had to say:
Focus: What inspired you to start counting koalas in The Hills?
Lilly: While koalas had been in the area historically, they were not known to be present in the area after the 2002 fires. When a koala was finally spotted by a local in 2018, we decided to try to gather more information about local koalas as there was no official research in the area and officially they were not known (or acknowledged) to exist in The Hills. We wanted to find out if we have a stable breeding population as we once did before the fires or if it was an individual passing through from the Hawkesbury, which had been suggested to us. We also wanted to find out about distribution and population density as that information is important in any effort to protect the population.
Focus: Why do we need to count koalas?
Lilly: To start with, it was to try to figure out whether we had a breeding/permanent population again and then beyond that to gain the information required to be able to protect them as much as possible from road accidents, fire and habitat loss.
Focus: How do you count koalas because they are notoriously difficult to find?
Lilly: We are collecting reports from the community of koala sightings and koala calls heard, and adding them to our koala sightings map we have created. We are then using this map to guide which areas we go into to look at habitat and put out song meters and cameras, to see what wildlife is around.
Focus: Have you seen a koala in The Hills?
Lilly: I have, in the Maroota area, but it was prior to the 2002 fires. In the last few years I’ve seen photographs of local koalas sent in by residents and listened to koala calls which have been recorded in the area by residents as well.
Focus: How can people get involved?
Lilly: There are many ways people can get involved depending how much time they have and what they want to do. For more information they can follow our Cattai Hills Environmental Network Facebook page or contact us through the page. It would also be really helpful if they do see (or hear) a koala to report that to us, with a photograph or sound recording if possible
Focus: What can people expect from your upcoming workshop on Thursday 26 October?
Lilly: At the workshop we will look at the koala map and which areas koalas have been seen in as well as how to spot koalas, what their calls sound like and what types of trees they tend to favour. We will also discuss the other wildlife we are seeing and recording during our field work.
To book your FREE ticket to see Lilly live at the Community Environment Centre, visit: www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/Upcoming-Events-Activities/Citizen-Science-Koala-Project