Springsure Revisited Alistair Melzer September 2007  From 1989 to 1992 I undertook an intensive study of koalas and koala habitat on Norwood Creek, west of Springsure and on Springsure Creek at a site about 25 km east of Springsure. This study was undertaken with the aid of community volunteers including those who eventually set up the Central Queensland Koala Volunteers.   This month I revisited this study site for the first time in 15 years – and what a change there was!   
Dead riparian forest on Norwood Creek (September 2007)  
Carmen Drake, Caroline LeBris and Maud Cloarec joined me on a weekend visit. The intent of this essentially social trip was to assess the need for a future resurvey of the koala population. We travelled the four hours' drive from Rockhampton to Springsure and booked into the Zamia Motel on Saturday morning. Carmen was the first local person to volunteer her time to the koala study back in 1989. Maud and Caroline are students from France on a work based training program. They are here to pursue koala studies. That afternoon we familiarised ourselves with the Minerva Hills National Park and my old study site on Norwood Creek. We spent the afternoon searching in vain for koalas. We did find koala signs (scratches, urine stains and scratches on tree trunks) but no koalas.
Healthy riparian forest elsewhere along Norwood Creek (September 2007)  
On Sunday we spent the day in the park. Carmen, Maud and Caroline looked at the habitat structure while I looked at the size classes of the Blue Gum(Eucalyptus tereticotnis) and Moreton Bay Ash (Corymbia tessellaris). All the while we kept an eye out for koalas. On Monday morning we finished a few things at Norwook Creek before having lunch on Springsure Creek along Arcturus Road. So what did we find? Firstly we could not find any koalas on Norwood Creek. We did find scattered signs of koalas – droppings, scratches and urine stains on trees. Koalas are present but at such a low density that diligent searching by four people could not find any animals.
Fresh koala faecal pellets on Norwood Creek (September 2007)  
Secondly, the koala habitat was in severe decline with many Blue Gum and a lesser number of Moreton Bay Ash dead or dying. We presume that this is due to drought although there were signs of an intense fire. Many old Blue Gum, Moreton Bay Ash and iron barks (E. crebra, E. melanophloia) had been burned out. At Springsure Creek the situation was much the same with most Blue Gums, many Moreton Bay Ash and some Coolibah dead or in very poor conditions. Koala signs were sparse but after some systematic searching we located two koalas – mature male and mature female. This is in an area that formally held a population density of 40 koalas per km2. Here drought seems to be the primary cause. There was no indication of fire. Grazing pressure appeared moderate. 
Koala scratches on Blue Gum on Norwood Creek (September 2007)  
So we’ll aim to return to these Springsure sites and systematically resurvey the sites previously surveyed in 1991. This will need a team of at least five people for four working days.They will systematically search for koalas and describe the current structure and composition of the habitat.We are seeing similar die back of eucalypts on St Bees Island. If this is the impact of climate change then we are probably looking at a wide regional reduction in koala numbers and permanent change in habitat structure and composition.
Carmen, Maud and Caroline measured 400 trees while assessing koala habitat along Norwood Creek (September 2007)
Caroline and Maud taking in their first wild koala.
Female koala along Springsure Creek(September 2007)
Despite the tree dieback and the impact of recent fire on Norwood Creek, wildlife was abundant. We found scats of Brushtail possum, Greater glider and koala. We saw Echidna, Grey kangaroo, Wallaroo, Whiptail wallaby and Swamp wallaby. A dead Rufus bettong was found in the hole left by the burnout of an old gum tree. Sulphur crested cockatoo, Galah, Redwing parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet and Pale headed rosella were competing for nesting hollows. A pair of Crested hawk worked through the canopy. There were a few pairs of striped honeyeaters feeding in the shrubs. Currawong, Apostle birds, Grey headed babblers, Magpie, Peewee, Bronzewing and Crested pigeon all competed for space. Channel Billed Cuckoo and Pheasant coucal provided the background calls so evocative of central Queensland summers.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
St Bees Island July 2007
The mature male established itself in a way that blocked any escape by the younger male. It maintained an erect posture and fed actively.  (Photo A. Melzer)
A young male koala from St Bees Island
July 2007 (
Photo A. Melzer)
At one stage the young male attempted to crawl along the underside of the branch but was driven back. Next morning both animals had left the tree and were not seen again during the trip. (Photo A. Melzer)
A young male koala is pursued to the outer branches of a 20 m gum tree by a mature male koala. There was much grunting and bellowing from the mature male. (Photo A. Melzer)


We watched the young male remain clinging to the outer-most branches until it was too dark to see the animals. (Photo A. Melzer)


Note the difference in the chest gland between the two males. In the older male the active gland and surrounding fur is stained brown from the pungent secretions. The fur is white and the gland small on the young male which is probably in its first year of sexual maturity. The sternal gland is a secondary sex characteristic in male koalas.

Arts in the Park 2007


A really pleasant day was spent in the Botanical Gardens on Sunday 14th October under the banyan trees. The Koala Volunteers sold hats, shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, orphan koalas and our 2008 Diary/Calendar. Thank you, Doreen, for helping on the day.


We shared the shade with Carmen and the Contemporary Artists display and Ian and Cathy Herbert who were promoting Rhonda Melzer's and Joel Plumb’s wonderful book on Plants of Capricornia. Rhonda came along and personally signed all books sold.






Twin Koalas


In the Winter Edition of the newsletter there was a report about the celebrations in China for the Twin koalas. 


It has been reported in 'That's Life', that twin koalas had been born in The Ballarat Wildlife Park.  There was a beautiful photo of the twins with their mother. 


I contacted the magazine to get permission to print the article in the newsletter and when I received no reply, I also contacted the Wildlife Park, but was unsuccessful.  If you can get a copy of 'That's Life', you can read all about them.


I just hope that these beautiful creatures survive.



From the Treasurer's Desk


Alistair is arranging a meeting of members and science academics to discuss where our funds could be directed for the best results in Koala Research.


Our funds come from various projects and each is important.  Koala Chocs and our Ugly Sweaters were the best fund raisers and the diaries by our artist members, Carmen Drake, Dawn Pound, Jo Lawrence and Rhonda Melzer have again been popular.Thank you, members, for your support of our fund raisers and enjoy the Festive Season.

Shirley Hopkins




Additional members are urgently needed to spread the work load so if you have friends who may be interested, please urge them to join. 


Congratulations to member Rhonda Melzer and co-author, Joel Plumb, who have launched a wonderful book, 'Plants of Capricornia'.  The book features over 600 native species with magnificent photographs and includes keys to species in each genus as well as human usage and ecological notes.  The book is available from:

Capricorn Conservation Council, PO Box 4011,

Rockhampton 4700, at a cost of $65.00 soft cover, $110.00 hard cover, postage and handling -

Qld $12.00, other states, $16.00.


Shirley Hopkins