26 June 2023

Spotting a koala in the ACT has never been easier

| James Coleman
koala in a tree

A koala in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Photo: ACT Parks and Conservation.

The problem with wild animals is that they’re in the wild. So if you hope to see one in person, you’ll need a nature reserve with tracks designed for easy walking.

A key part of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the ACT’s south is the 700-metre Koala Path. And it’s just reopened after four weeks of repairs.

Visitors are promised a glimpse of not only koalas but also echidnas, black cockatoos and potaroos. And yes, promised.

“As you enter, there’s a small area about the size of a house block which always has some koalas in it, and they live there and are managed by our threatened species team,” Tidbinbilla manager John McRae says.

“And then in the broader forest area, there are probably eight to 10 wild koalas living out there, and it’s just pure luck if you see them. They can be pretty hard to find, and you can end up with a cricked neck from looking up.”

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After 20 years out in the elements, and many, many feet, the track was looking a bit worse for wear.

“The bitumen was laid not long after the 2003 bushfires and it’s been degrading over the years, and just generally falling apart with tree roots and holes forming,” John says.

Three sopping wet years only exacerbated the damage.

“Post the 2019/20 bushfires, we’ve had three very wet years, and it pushed the level of damage to the point where we started to get complaints. But it’s a difficult job because it’s awkward to get to – it’s not like you can drive your machine right up to the edge of the path.”

Koalas being released back into Tidbinbilla

Staff from ACT Parks and Conservation releasing koalas into their enclosure along the Koala Path. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Work started in early May, focusing on accessibility for prams, people in wheelchairs, and those with other disabilities.

“It’s all about removing some of those barriers to people to come out here and enjoy either a walk or a bit of time with nature,” John says.

“Anyone thinking, ‘Oh, I’d love to go to a park’ – there’ll be something for them here.”

ACT Parks and Conservation has taken a similar approach over the years to the Sanctuary Loop. This 2.1 km track takes in a wetlands ecosystem, surrounded by bushland and protected by a predator-proof fence. Visitors can encounter platypi, turtles, bandicoots and a huge variety of birds on a track described as “suitable for wheelchair users who have someone to assist them”.

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John says the works are still in progress while they upgrade toilet facilities to be more disability-friendly.

The visitor centre at Tidbinbilla also closed earlier this month after a six-month investigation found leaks and residual moisture plaguing the building. There’s no word on when it will reopen, but entry to the park is free in the meantime.

John says “it’s not evident” this has affected visitor numbers.

“It’s a quiet time of year for us, being winter,” he says.

“The only challenge for some people when they do arrive is getting our orientation with the visitors centre. But there are brochures by the door. You also can’t go in and get a coffee, which is a great tragedy.”

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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