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Koalas - smarter than your average bear

AAP logoAAP 26/07/2016

Koalas are very cute and sleepy animals that can certainly draw a crowd at any zoo.

They are also quite smart, according to a new study that has tracked the movements of the Australian animal in suburban Brisbane.

Griffith University researchers from The Environmental Futures Research Institute team comprehensively monitored 130 man-made koala crossings over a 30-month period.

The crossings were implemented across southeast Queensland as part of a state government program to stop koalas from becoming roadkill.

Professor Darryl Jones, who was part of the Griffith research team, said nobody knew whether the structures would actually keep koalas safe from being hit by cars.

"We expected the animals to take a while to get used to them," he said.

To their surprise, the clever koalas were using the structures three weeks in - proving you can teach the furry animal new tricks.

"You can, that's the point. I was the first sceptical person to say they're not that smart," said Prof Jones.

The team of researchers used a range of technologies that allowed them to not just generically monitor whether koalas passed through the crossing but pinpointed individual koalas and the exact time they entered and left the tunnels.

Using camera traps, audio radio transmitters, RFID tags (similar to microchips in pets) and wireless ID tags they gathered more information than any previous research.

Not only did the researchers discover that koalas are cleverer than first thought, but that these experimental structures are working to keep them safe.

"Although we don't want the koalas to be disturbed, all over the place on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane there are special koala specific tunnels and ledges that are allowing them to cross. Those animals are not going to be hit anymore so that's good news," said Prof Jones.

The crossings studied in Brisbane were within the jurisdictions of Brisbane City, Redland City and Moreton Bay Regional Council.

The findings have been published by the CSIRO.

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