Saving the Day: koalas in crisis

Saving the Day: koalas in crisis Henryk Sadura
11 Feb
2017
With Queensland koala numbers in free-fall, a novel idea suggests using daylight savings time to protect the species

In the past two decades, koala populations in Brisbane, Australia have been taking a severe beating. Numbers have plummeted by 80 per cent, as vulnerable populations have been savaged by disease (particularly Chlamydia, but also conjunctivitis, pneumonia, and urinary and reproductive tract infections), habitat loss (75 per cent of the main koala food tree species are declining in number as a result of ‘dieback’ – a gradual dying of trees), dog attacks and traffic collisions.

It’s the last of these threats that a conglomerate of Australian biologists and conservationists is targeting. It has spent a full year tracking the movement patterns of wild koalas, comparing them with the traffic patterns of roads where they are often being killed. At the moment, many nocturnal animals – including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies – begin their night time activities (which include crossing these busy roads) while the evening commuter rush hour is still underway, leading to hundreds of koala deaths each year. The conclusions led the team to propose shifting the time zone of southeast Queensland – of which Brisbane is the major urban hub – to daylight savings time, enabling commuters to complete their journeys in the light and before the animals take to the roads.

If we can reduce the number of animals hit on the roads by making a simple change like this, then conservation and road safety should become part of the debate on daylight saving

‘Collisions with wildlife are most likely to occur during twilight or darkness,’ says Robbie Wilson, researcher at the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences. Wilson and his fellow researchers estimate that shifting to daylight savings time would reduce koala collisions by up to eight per cent during the week, and as much as 11 per cent at the weekend. ‘If we can reduce the number of animals hit on the roads by making a simple change like this, then conservation and road safety should become part of the debate on daylight saving,’ he argues. ‘The flip side of this research is that we don’t know the effect daylight savings will have on diurnal animals – those active in the daytime – such as snakes, lizards and birds, so future research should also incorporate studies of these species.’

This was published in the February 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Nature reserves and protected areas in Germany have lost 76…

Oceans

An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The rapid spread of Asian hornets is likely to make…

Energy

Europe provides more than €112billion (£97billion) in subsidies to fossil…

Oceans

A study of various fish populations has found dramatic reductions…

Geophoto

The seasonal changes of September promise much photographic potential for…

Oceans

Shipping traffic can increase lightning strikes, according to a pioneering…

Polar

New documentary travels to remote Antarctica to unpack the complex…

Oceans

The deaths of these majestic creatures had remained an unsolved…

Wildlife

Over a two-year period, a new species of plant or…

Wildlife

As part of New Zealand’s plan to cull millions of…

Oceans

A project to map the ocean floor is raising concerns…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

Dismay as a Spanish baby dolphin becomes the latest victim…

Polar

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Oceans

The effect of plastics on the world’s oceans is posing…

Geophoto

Camera technology may have come a long way since the…

Energy

The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn…

Wildlife

Despite their high profiles, most of the world’s national animal…