Koalatracker.com.au is Australia's national koala map. KoalaTracker shows that koalas are trying to live with us, regardless of whether we notice or not, and graphically records the impacts of urbanisation, loss of habitat and increased disease.
Created by Alex Harris, Koalatracker.com.au (previously known as KoalaDiaries) was a first in terms of integrating location intelligence technology with community engagement to record the occurrence of a single species nationally. It plots the points of crowdsourced (contributed by members of the public) koala sightings on a dynamic national koala map.
The value of this information in a single central database to koala conservation efforts Australia-wide cannot be overestimated. It is free for researchers, government agencies and members of the community - everyone - to use.
How and why did Koalatracker.com.au start?
It all began with some very hot days, and a few emails bouncing around the place early in 2009 showing photos of koalas reaching out, clearly asking for water (See the koalas asking for water photo gallery). Who knew they did this?
It struck me just how little the general public - those of us who are not wildlife carers - know about this unique Australian animal.
Twenty years of effort to save the koala have failed. It was apparent that mapped koala location intelligence and community engagement were the missing links. Working with the community to show them the value of koalas, their plight and our role in that, is extremely important, or we will see their extinction in our life time.
We can't save them if we don't know where they are.
How can we save them when only a handful of dedicated carers and rescue teams are out there scraping them off the road, and the rest of us drive on by? How can we save them when, for all the research and satellite mapping of trees that has been done, we still don’t have the answers to three basic questions:
- Just how many koalas are left?
- Where do they live?
- In what general condition?
Getting the public involved in koala research and specifically koala mapping was critical. So I created this national koala map to crowdsource the location of alive, dead and injured koalas Australia-wide, that provides visual descriptions of health and location, sometimes with photos.
What does Koalatracker.com.au hope to achieve?
Already, Koalatracker.com.au can prove that the koala habitat maps in some areas bear almost no relationship to the whereabouts of koalas.
That these habitat maps are the basis for infrastructure and urban development planning and conservation decisions is a concern. It does not account for the koalas living in so-called low value or unsuitable areas, but it is these koalas who are at critical risk.
The fact is, we have destroyed huge swathes of high value habitat and replaced it with housing estates, built fences and roads, introduced dogs and non-food trees into areas that once supported large populations of koalas. That this is now low-value habitat or no longer considered viable habitat is almost irrelevant, as koalas continue to live in these highly urban or intensively farmed environments. They have to travel further between limited food trees, across busy roads, traverse yards with dogs and swimming pools. The risks are in some instances insurmountable.
Every sighting matters, even if recording the same koala (do note that!). KoalaTracker provides evidence of the location of koala colonies on which researchers can rely to find populations to study in the wild. KoalaTracker's koala map is used by government agencies, by scientists, by councils and community groups, to learn more about koalas in specific areas. Our koala map is especially useful to local government authorities for effective risk mitigation and planning.
What else do you need to know about Koalatracker.com.au?
Membership is free, and photos are available for non-commercial use with attribution to www.Koalatracker.com.au. I specifically allocated this kind of a license to the website with school children and community groups in mind.
The development cost, web hosting fees and many hours of work that went into creating and maintaining this website (>1,400 hours to-date) have self-funded, and the site remains free for all members. Please show your support by donating a sum to help with hosting costs at least ($70 per month), or buy a T-shirt from the shop to help spread the word.
Please tell your friends about KoalaTracker. Thank you!