Local Mark Kesby will play a key role in keeping Gunnedah’s koalas hydrated over summer.
The conservationist has been employed by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to maintain 24 Blinky Drinkers until April and will start next week.
The water drinkers for koalas are funded under OEH’s Save our Species (SOS) program and were installed by Gunnedah Urban Landcare Group (GULG) from late 2016.
Mr Kesby is very familiar with the drinkers, helping to install through his role as chair of GULG.
“I think it’s great to be able to contribute to the effort to preserve our koalas because I think they’re iconic and vital to Gunnedah,” he said.
Mr Kesby said OEH would like at modifying some of the drinkers because “we’re still yet to see one to drink on the platform on the video”.
”There are different schools of thought on what koala will and won’t drink and that’s what we’re looking at, and the University of Sydney,” he said.
“This program only runs until April because they’re trying to get the data to see if this is a viable thing to do. Is it worth pursuing? We know koalas need water, especially in hot times. Is this going to help? In the longer term, we’re going to need to work with the community to continue it on.”
The OEH spokesperson said Mr Kesby would oversee the maintenance of the Blinky Drinkers over summer, “replenishing water and ensuring continued operation of the drinkers”.
“The water tanks need topping up regularly. As well, OEH has motion-activated cameras mounted above the drinker bowls, to record visitation by koalas, and also birds, gliders and other wildlife,” the spokesperson said.
“The contractor will maintain the cameras and regularly swap the SD cards in the cameras and provide the video data to OEH for analysis. The video data collected this year will allow refinement of the water supplementation program.”
The spokesperson said landholders and community members would continue to play an “important role” in the program.
“The Blinky Drinker program has demonstrated the use of supplementary watering points for wildlife and successfully raised community awareness about the impacts on wildlife of a warming climate,” the spokesperson said.
“OEH will review the use of the Blinky Drinkers once the drought is over.”
The Blinky Drinker program has demonstrated the use of supplementary watering points for wildlife and successfully raised community awareness about the impacts on wildlife of a warming climate.Office of Environment and Heritage
GULG member Rod Browne said the announcement of a contractor was good news.
“We just appreciate the fact that OEH has come through and employed [Mark], which is a great assistance to us because we are overstretched at the moment in terms of our volunteer numbers and we have way too many projects on our plate to continue doing [the Blinky Drinkers],” he said.
“It was the first time we’d been involved in wildlife monitoring [and] it was our job was to get them out there and then hand them over to the contractor for data collection.”
Mr Browne said GULG “appreciate the effort” of Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson in “encouraging OEH to fulfill this contract”.
The Tamworth MP said he met with the Project Koala sub-committee of GULG regarding the position and took their case for funding to the Minister for the Environment, Gabrielle Upton MP.
“The unprecedented drought experienced this year throughout the region intensified the focus for the need for these drinkers to assist the existing koala population and prevent further decline in numbers,” Mr Anderson said.
“The Blinky Drinkers are proving to give plenty of ‘bang for their buck’ and are a necessity during the drought to assist in these animals’ survival.
“I’m passionate about the future of Gunnedah’s place in the nation as the Koala Capital and this has been reflected in recent funding announcements.”