Dr. Desley Whisson first began working with koalas in 2004 when she was a wildlife officer with the South Australian government on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. In addition to koalas, Desley is also fascinated by the alpine region and its wildlife and has a number of research projects underway in Victoria’s high country. Desley is originally from Brisbane, Queensland but has spent much of her working life overseas, conducting research on a diversity of wildlife species in Mexico and the U.S.
Dr. Whisson is particularly interested in how to manage overabundant animals- which, in a recent fielding season, certainly describes the koala population in Cape Otway. She described the effects at one site, where “Sadly, we are now at around 22 koalas per hectare. It appears that many of them are youngsters that have just been weaned. Those ones seem to be having a difficult time finding a place in the already crowded trees. During the week, we came across some that were very weak, and others that were turning to humans for comfort. The little female I moved off Manna Gum Drive twice pulled at my heartstrings. It is frustrating to observe this population increase and not to be able to do anything about it. Culling to reduce the population is out of the question (banned at the Commonwealth level), translocation has its own negatives in terms of animal welfare, sterilization will not work quickly, and habitat works are also long-term options.”
A great moment in the field:
“It was five o’clock in the morning and I was standing thigh-deep in a swamp holding a native rat, and I realized that there was something unique in the experience and that was what I wanted to pursue.”