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Australia; Ian Hume; Koalas  

Environmental Recording 15:31 - 29:33 Play 15:31 - More
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Australia; Ian Hume; Koalas  

Environmental Recording 59:38 - 1:02:39 Play 59:38 - More
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NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
9 Mar 2000

    Geography
  • Australia
    New South Wales
    Locality
  • Newcastle
    Latitude/Longitude
  • -32.91667   151.75
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
    Microphones
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 40
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo

LNS#147619
NPR/RADIO EXPEDITIONS
AUSTRALIA- KOALAS
INTERVIEW WITH IAN HUME

** note koalas are not in the bear family (at least I do not think so) ... in the piece we should include that this is a misnomer
WEBSTER's definition of a bear: any of the family (Ursidae of the order Carnivora) of large
heavy mammals having long, shaggy hair, rudimentary tail and plantigrade feed and feeding largely on fruits and insects as well as on flesh."

44:05 IH -through a graduate student that I inherited when his
graduate professor died halfway through his candidature. He was at the University of New South Wales. At that stage I was at the University of New England at Armadar (sp), but I was working on nutrition of marsupials and the student named Steve Cork asked me to take him on, and so I did. He introduced me to koalas and at the same time I had other students working on possums and another big glider that feeds on Eucalyptus leaves. So the common link was Eucalyptus leaves. How good are Eucalyptus leaves as food and nutritive value. 44:59
45:00 AC -but I think you like koalas, bc earlier when you entered this reserve you said to me: koalas are just magic .

45:12 (laughter) IH -yeah, well they are. And it is very easy to become attached to them emotionally. That is one of the problems with working with koalas. You have to be very careful to maintain your objectivity.

45:30 AC -what is it that is magic about them?

45:33 IH -that is a question that has had intrigued many people for years. Possibly it is their forward facing eyes, and their sort of teddy-bear like face that they have, which is really, really endearing, and I think that is partly why they are the number one animal in terms of popularity. 45:59

46;00 AC -How are they seen in other parts of Australia?

46:09 IH -They are always seen as an endearing animal. Of course they are not found in all parts of Australia. They are really restricted to the eastern coastal plain. They great dividing range just in land from that -and then in the inland river systems that run not towards the Pacific Ocean systems but in towards Lake Eyre (sp) and in that direction. But they are not found in western Australia, naturally, and only very small parts of south Australia are natural habitat. So it is really Victoria, new South Wales, and Queensland. But everybody loves them, no question about that. 47:00

47:01 AC -what about the efforts to conserve the koala now? There are I guess a lot of different plans --in some places there are so many of the creatures people talk about
culling them. I guess they don't talk about that any more. I guess that is past as a suggested solution.

47:29 IH -yeah. I mean one of my colleagues down in Victoria, Roger Martin comes up
with this suggestion from time to time -that they have got so many koalas in Victoria that whenever they translocate them from one area to another one they quickly breed up and outstrip the food resources of that new area. And I think it is tongue in cheek. I think he is using it to stir up discussion about why there are too many koalas for the number of trees. Whether there are too many koalas or there are not enough trees, and that is the angle I am pushing. You have got to think in terms of recreating more koala habitat. The koalas released in Victoria and south Australia are always released into these little isolated islands of trees, surrounded by cleared fields, and no wonder the koalas get into trouble. They have no where else to go. They can not disperse out of these little islands. They have got to have bigger islands, more of them and link them up. 48:37 and not go the other route of reducing the number of animals. I do not think that is necessary.48:45
AC -Do you know how many koala there are?

48:52 IH -Nobody knows the answer to that question. Estimates range widely from millions down to tens of thousands; depends whether you are a conservationist or a land manager I suppose. 49:11
AC -what can you say about the status of your own work here. Are you satisfied that this is a success or not, and then what are people to do with this?

49:34 IH -ok. I started off with 2 main goals. One was to demonstrate that if we do it properly we can restore degraded koala habitat and the second goal was to demonstrate that if you have been able to restore the koala habitat it is possible, again, we do it properly, to release captive bred koalas into the wild. And so help start recolonizing former parts of the koalas range. I think we have been going now 10 yrs on this project. We planted the first trees in 1990, introduced the first koalas in 1995, we now have successful breeding. So I think I have achieved both goals, or nearly -I need a couple of yrs to confirm that breeding is continuing and it is now self-sustaining population. Over the last 5 years I have been able to introduce 2 adult koalas into the area each year. And this is where the Australian wildlife park has come in. They have donated the breeding stock. Now we have said well that stage is finished, the next couple of years we want to just go with the stock that we have got and hopefully demonstrate that it is a self-sustaining population. What are people to do with the information that we get out of this. 51: 15 what are the lessons. The lessons are firstly -although first of all we should be conserving the remaining koala habitat that we have, no question that is the first priority. But the second priority is ok, if we have got degraded koala habitat that is no longer carrying koalas then it is
possible, doing it right, to restore koala habitat back to where it is possible to restore koala habitat back to where it is capable of carrying breeding populations of koalas .
51 :47 that is the first lesson. Out of that comes a series of recommendations that we can make, and really that comes from a combination of this project and a previous project supported by the Nat Geo Society where we looked at the dispersal ofjuvenile koalas once they leave their natal home range. 52:11 and info from both of those projects can
be used to make some recommendations to farmers who are looking to green their properties, that is re-plant trees, partly to maybe increase shelter for their stock, partly to arrest erosion problems, partly to turn back the salinity problems that is developing n many agricultural areas, but at the same time that they are planting trees if we can show them which ones to plant and in what configurations then they could be remaking koala habitat again, with the possibility of koalas being either introduced into these areas or naturally migrating out of or dispersing from near-by natural populations. 53 :07
AC -53:08 your actual real specialty -or I am not sure ifit is -anyway, the subject of your most recent book -is how these animals are able to :digest what they do. And could you just ... explain what is the kind of digestion dilemma for a koala. What is it faced with? What is it that they have to do? I think they are quite remarkable in what they can do.
53 :36 IH -they are, they are. This comes back to the problem of a Eucalyptus leaf being food. Well, it is.a pretty low-quality food. First of all, it doesn't have a lot of protein in it. And it has got some soluble carbohydrates which produce energy, but it has what I call anti-nutrients in it as well, and these act against the good well-being of the animal. For instance, fiber which is any plant material. The fiber in grass can be fermented by bacteria
¿
NPRINGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
¿ AUSTRALIA -KOALAS INTERVIEW WITH IAN HUME
¿
** note koalas are not in the bear famil y (at least I do not think so) ... in the piece we should include that this is a misnomer
WEBSTER's definition of a bear: any of the family (Ursidae of the order Carnivora) of large heavy mammals having long, shaggy hair, rudimentary tail and plantigrade feed and feeding largely on fruits and insects as well as on flesh."
44:05 IH -through a graduate student that I inherited when his graduate professor died halfway through his candidature. He was at the University ofNew South Wales. At that stage I was at the University of New England at Armadar (sp), but I was working on nutrition of marsupials and the student named Steve Cork asked.me to take him on, and so I did. He introduced me to koalas and at the same time I had other students working on possums and another big glider that feeds on Eucalyptus leaves .. So the common link was Eucalyptus leaves. How good are Eucalyptus leaves as food and nutritive value.
44:59
45 :OOAC -but I think you like koalas, bc earlier when you. entered this reserve you said to me: koalas are just magic .
45: 12 (laughter) IH -yeah, well they are. And it is very easy to become attached to them emotionally. That is one of the problems with working with koalas. You have to be very careful to maintain your objectivity.
45:30 AC -what is it that is magic about them?
45:33 IH -that is a question that has had intrigued many people for years. Possibly it is their forward facing eyes, and their sort of teddy-bear like face that they have, which is really, really endearing, and I think that is partly why they are the number one animal in terms of popularity. 45:59
46;00 AC -How are they seen in other parts of Australia?
46:09 IH -They are always seen as an endearing animal. Of course they are not found in all parts of Australia. They are really restricted to the eastern coastal plain. They great dividing range just in land from that -and then in the inland river systems that run not towards the Pacific Ocean systems but in towards Lake Eyre (sp) and in that direction. But they are not found in western Australia, naturally, and only very small parts of south Australia are natural habitat. So it is really Victoria, new South Wales, and Queensland. But everybody loves them, no question about that. 47:00
47:01 AC -what about the efforts to conserve the koala now? There are I guess a lot of different plans --in some places there are so many of the creatures people talk about
¿ culling them. I guess they don't talk about that any more. I guess that is past as a suggested solution.
47:29 IH -yeah. I mean one of my colleagues down in Victoria, Roger Martin comes up with this suggestion from time to time -that they have got so many koalas in Victoria that whenever they translocate them from one area to another one they quickly breed up and outstrip the food resources of that new area. And I think it is tongue in cheek. I think he is using it to stir up discussion about why there are too many koalas for the number of trees. Whether there are too many koalas or there are not enough trees, and that is the angle I am pushing. You have got to think in terms of recreating more koala habitat. The koalas released in Victoria and south Australia are always released into these little isolated islands of trees, surrounded by cleared fields, and no wonder
I ¿¿ ,
the koalas get into trouble. They hav'e no where else to go. They can not disperse out of these little islands. They have got to have big,ger islands, more of them and
. , , link.them¿up. 48:37 and not go the other route of reducing the number of animals. I do not think that is necessary.48:45
AC -Do you know how many koala there are?
48:52 III -Nobody knows the answer to that question. Estimates range widely from
. millions down to tens of thousands; depends, whether you 'are a conservationist or a land manager I suppose. 49:11
AC -what can you say about the status of your own work.here. Are you satisfied that
this is a success or not, and then what are people to do with this?
49:34 IH -ok. I started off with 2 main goals. One was to demonstrate that if we do it properly we can restore degraded koala habitat and the second goal was to demonstrate that if you have been able to restore the koala habitat it is possible, again, we do it properly, to release captive bred koalas into the wild. And so help start recolonizing former parts of the koalas range. I think we have been going now 10 yrs on this project. We planted the first trees in 1990, introduced the first koalas in 1995, we now have successful breeding. So I think I have achieved both goals, or nearly -I need a couple of yrs to confirm that breeding is continuing and it is now self-sustaining population. Over the last 5 years I have been able to introduce 2 adult koalas into the area each year. And this is where the Australian wildlife park has come in. They have donated the breeding stock. Now we have said well that stage is finished, the next couple of years we want to just go with the stock that we have got and hopefully demonstrate that it is a self-sustaining population. What are people to do with the information that we get out of this. 51: 15 what are the lessons. The lessons are firstly -although first of all we should be conserving the remaining koala habitat that we have, no question that is the first priority. But the second priority is ok, if we have got degraded koala habitat that is no longer carrying koalas then it is
possible, doing it right, to restore koala habitat back to where it is possible to restore koala habitat back to where it is capable of carrying breeding populations of koalas .
51:47 that is the first lesson. Out of that comes a series of recommendations that we can ¿ make, and really that comes from a combination of this project and a previous project supported by the Nat Geo Society where we looked at the dispersal ofjuvenile koalas once they leave their natal home range. 52:11 and info from both of those projects can
be used to make some recommendations to farmers who are looking to green their properties, that is re-plant trees, partly to maybe increase shelter for their stock, partly to arrest erosion problems, partly to turn back the salinity problems that is developing n many agricultural areas, but at the same time that they are planting trees if we can show them which ones to plant and in what configurations then they could be remaking koala habitat again, with the possibility of koalas being either introduced into these areas or naturally migrating out of or dispersing from near-by natural populations. 53 :07
AC -53:08 your actual real specialty -or I am not sure ifit is -anyway, the subject of
your most recent book -is how these animals are able to digest what they do. And could -you just... explain what is the kind of digestion dilemma-for a koala. What is it faced
with? What is it that they have to do? I think they are quite, remarkable in what they can
do.

53 :36 IH -they are, they are. This comes back to the problem of a Eucalyptus leaf being food. Well, it is a pretty low-quality food. First of all, it doesn't have a lot of protein in it:'A:nd it has got some soluble carbohydrates which produce energy, but it has what I call anti-nutrients in it as well, and these act against the good well-being of the animal. For instance, fiber which is any plant material. The fiber in grass can be fermented by bacteria
¿

¿

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