As Plain As The Nose On Their Face: Efficacy Of Nostril Pigment Patterns In Identifying Individual Koalas

As Plain As The Nose On Their Face: Efficacy Of Nostril Pigment Patterns In Identifying Individual Koalas


Echidna Walkabout has been an Australian member of TIES for a number of years. The paper, "As Plain as the Nose on their Face", is the result of an important study of wild koalas carried out by tour company, Echidna Walkabout. This work is not only an important breakthrough in techniques for identifying individual animals in the wild (and therefore monitoring their movements and behaviour) but also a significant example of how a tourism operator can act as a credible research organisation. These facets combined make Echidna Walkabout's presentation at the Pathways Conference stand out as an important news-worthy event not only during the conference but also afterwards when the proceedings of the conference can be used to raise the profile of ecotourism as a driver of conservation. In many ways, the work shows diligence and perseverance similar to Jane Goodall's work with primates but this time with one of the world's most endearing animals, the koala. It has been predicted that this keystone icon for tourism into Australia may become extinct in the wild within 20 to 30 years unless urgent action is taken to protect it from habitat loss and climate change. This study has shown that koalas, and potentially many other animals, can be monitored in the wild with minimum cost and disturbance, using citizen science and tourism as the mainstay of the research. The following is an abstract of this paper:


"Koalas are a quintessential flagship species and cultural icon throughout Australia. They are a driving force behind a booming wildlife tourism industry and a primary focus of citizen science projects. There have been several campaigns to improve koala conservation, as well as a strong push to include the public in policy and management initiatives.
However, these efforts have had little effect in reducing threats to koala survival which include habitat fragmentation, land-use conflicts, lack of consensus over population estimates, and Chlamydia infections. These anthropogenic affects, coupled with increasing public interest, as manifested in tourism and volunteering, all heighten the need for accurate population estimates.
This study explored the efficacy of using nostril pigment patterns as a low-cost, non-instruive method of identifying individual wild koalas. Data are presented from a 16-year longitudinal study monitoring 98 individual koalas from three separate populations across south-eastern Australia. Nostril pigment patterns are shown to be consistent from pouch emergence through death. Photographic data (over 19,000 photographs) coupled with computer generated imagery indicates a high degree of reliability for the method (93% accuracy). Citizen science-based data (n=800) aligns with the same levels of identification accuracy. Results suggest a valid and reliable method for the identification of koala populations across their range. The accurate identification of individual koalas can help increase public support for conservation, improve management outcomes, and foster sustainable wildlife tourism."


To learn more about Echidna Walkabout, check out their Member Profile


To learn more about Echidna Walkabout's presentation at the Pathways Conference, visit the website.


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As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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