Koala spotted at Lake Awoonga.
Koala spotted at Lake Awoonga. Contributed

Keen eyes bear witness to rare koala visit at Lake Awoonga

WHEN wildlife photographer John Murray stumbled upon a koala at Lake Awoonga last month, he couldn't believe his eyes.

An avid photographer in the Awoonga region, John has captured many photos of birds, wallabies, snakes, lizards and now a koala.

Last month he was out photographing nesting kookaburras in the bushland surrounding the lake.

"In the distance further up, I noticed something," he said.

"Curiosity got the better of me and I walked up through the bush to have a closer look."

John was startled to find a large koala sitting in the branch of an ironbark tree.

"I was very surprised," John said.

"In the years I've been here, I'd never seen one."

John approached some of the rangers in the region with his discovery.

"I was told they (koalas) were here once upon a time, but it was a long time ago," Mr Murray said.

"One ranger I spoke to told me he'd never seen one, in at least 15 years."

John has some theories about how the koala came to be at Lake Awoonga.

"I'd heard koalas can travel big distances," he said.

"I think he was looking for a mate, but they were also burning off down south around that time."

John went back the following day but the koala had moved on.

"The waterboard don't allow cats and dogs in the area which is why we have such good wildlife around," he said.

"It's to their credit."

Koala sighting a surprise

IN 26 years as a superintendent at the Lake Awoonga Pump Station, Peter Hawkins never saw a koala.

As he worked along the pipeline between the lake and Gladstone, Peter was always keeping an eye out for koalas.

"An old grader driver told me years ago there used to be heaps along the pipeline," Mr Hawkins said.

When Mr Hawkins heard about the koala sighting, he was dumbstruck.

"I couldn't believe it, it's such a rare thing," he said.

"I wouldn't know how it got there."

Mr Hawkins said spotting the koala would have been no easy task.

"John's got a keen eye. He's really looking hard for the birds, which would have been how he saw it," he said.

How much can a koala bear?

  • Koalas aren't bears as many people are led to believe. They aren't even related to bears. The koala is a marsupial mammal.
  • The population of Australian koalas is reported to have dropped by 90% in less than a decade.