Koalas have unique noses

Koala bears can be identified by their unique noses, according to new research by an Australian walking tour company.

Janine Duffy of Echidna Walkabout, which is partnered with UK wildlife charity Care for the Wild’s RIGHT-tourism campaign for animal-friendly tourism, studied 108 koalas over 16 years and discovered that each had a unique ‘nose pattern’ or ‘noseprint’.

The research could lead to important discoveries about koala behaviour as well as enabling conservationists to study koala populations without trapping and tagging the animals, which causes them stress.

Koala bear

Identifying koalas by their noses removes the need for tagging

Due to habitat destruction, a chlamydia outbreak and bush fires, there are only around 45,000 to 85,000 koalas left in the wild, putting the species on the edge of being endangered.

Echidna Walkabout aims to develop a national online koala database, with tourists and locals contributing photographs to help identify koalas and track their movements and behaviour.

Chris Pitt, Campaign Manager for Care for the Wild International, said: “Through our RIGHT-tourism campaign we encourage tourists to enjoy wildlife without harming it – which they can often do without realising it. A crucial part of the puzzle is for tour operators to understand their impact on the wildlife they are helping people see, and to ensure they are following the best possible standards. Echidna Walkabout not only understand and respect the animals they see, but have clearly gone a step further. This is a wonderful example of wildlife tourism benefitting not only the lucky people who get to see the koalas, but also the koalas themselves.”

Janine Duffy added:  “As a wildlife tour operator, our world revolves around wild animals.  They are our life, our business future, and our passion.  Ensuring they have a future is our mission, and also makes good business sense.  That’s why we are working with Care for the Wild and RIGHT-tourism.  Respecting animals is the future, the only future.”

Find out more about Echidna Walkabout’s research at www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/wildliferesearch.

Check out tips and features on animal tourism around the world at www.RIGHT-tourism.org.

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Charlotte Rixon

A freelance nature, wildlife and environmental writer, journalist and blogger. Website: clippings.me/charlotterixon Twitter: @CharlotteRixon
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