A University of Queensland-led study has found that adopting daylight saving time in South-East Queensland could help koala conservation.
Researchers tracked wild koalas and compared their movements with traffic patterns along roads where they were often killed.
UQ School of Biological Sciences researcher Associate Professor Robbie Wilson said the study found daylightsaving time would decrease car collisions with koalas by eight per cent on weekdays and 11 per cent on weekends.
“This is achieved by simply shifting the timing of traffic relative to darkness,” Dr Wilson said.
“Daylight saving time could reduce collisions with nocturnal wildlife (animals that are active at night) because it would still be light when commuters drive home.
“Collisions with wildlife are most likely to occur during twilight or darkness.”
Koala numbers have declined in the Brisbane region by 80 per cent in the past 20 years, due to cars, dogs and disease.
“Other nocturnal animals, such as kangaroos and wallabies, could also benefit from a switch to daylightsaving, which could in turn improve the safety of commuters,” Dr Wilson said.
Associate Professor Wilson, Dr Sean Fitzgibbon and Dr Bill Ellis from UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and the Sustainable Minerals Institute devised the study to find better ways to protect koalas.
“Cars are responsible for hundreds of koala deaths each year,” Dr Ellis said.
“Anything that can reduce the number of cars on the road when nocturnal animals begin moving around is a good thing, and we wondered if daylight saving might be a factor.”
Dr Wilson said the results of the study were very encouraging and showed the importance of understanding the behaviour of animals in the wild.
“If we can reduce the number of animals hit on the roads by making a simple change like this, then conservation and road safety should become part of the debate on daylight saving,” Dr Wilson said.
“The flipside of this research is that we don’t know the effect daylight saving will have on diurnal animals (those active in the daytime) – such as snakes, lizards and birds - so future research should also incorporate studies of these animals,” he said.
The study was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant and a San Diego Zoo grant.