1870-1923: Phillip Island Translocation Site

Translocation Site

Phillip Island

Source of Koalas:

Bass River (1870) Probably the first island introduction in Victoria. Three koalas brought to Phillip Island from the Bass Area.

Flinders (late 1880s) Unknown number of individuals brought from Mornington Peninsula.

Blackwood Forest (1893) Numerous koalas taken to Newhaven from the Wonthaggi Area

French Island (1923) 50 koalas,

“Phillip and French Islands in Western Port Bay were not inhabited by koalas at the time of settlement. The current French Island koala population is believed to have been founded by a single release of a small number of koalas taken to the island by fishermen from Corinella in the late 1800s (Figure 3; Lewis 1954). In The Argus (1924), J. G. Palmer from Corinella stated that in around 1898−1900 his brother, F. Palmer took two “old” koalas and one “young” koala from the mainland and released them on French Island. Genetic evidence suggests that a minimum of three individuals (Houlden et al. 1996) founded the French Island population: two females and one male (Taylor et al. 1997).

The Phillip Island koala population was established by a larger number of individuals than the three released on French Island with introductions occurring on more than one occasion (Figure 3; Lewis 1954). John McHaffie was the sole occupant of Phillip Island from 1848−1868 a dedicated member of the ASV, breeding and releasing many animals on Phillip Island for the society (Wright 1980), though no evidence was located to suggest that koalas were ever released on Phillip Island by the ASV. Koalas were reportedly taken to Phillip Island by early pioneers (Gliddon 1958; Edgecombe 1989) and were brought from Bass River, by J. F. Smith, in 1870 (Lewis 1954; Gliddon 1958); from Flinders (on the Mornington Peninsula), by W. Kennon (Lewis 1954); from Blackwood Forest (near Wonthaggi), by C. and R. Grayden in 1893 (The Age 1938; Lewis 1954); and from French Island, by W. E. Thompson in 1923 (Lewis 1954).

Gliddon (1958) describes Mr John F. Smith’s recollection of hunting for wallabies at Bass River in 1880 with his brother, George, and Bill and Jack Walton. During this hunting trip, three koala joeys were captured and brought back to Phillip Island. Richard Grayden reported, in a letter to the editor in The Age (1938), that as a teenager, he had captured dozens of koala joeys from Blackwood Forest (near Wonthaggi). These, he took home to Newhaven, Phillip Island, where “every child living there had one for a pet” and “after a few days they were allowed to climb a tree, and soon gained their freedom”. Richard Grayden stated that it was after this time that the koala population increased and spread across the entire island and also mentions that the introduction of 50 French Island koalas to Phillip Island by Mr. Thompson in 1923 was prompted by a particularly wet winter which resulted in the death of many koalas on Phillip Island (The Age 1938).”

“Landscape, koalas and people: A historical account of koala populations and their environment in South Gippsland.” Corresponding Author: Faye Wedrowicz Australian Zoologist Volume 38 (4)