Oz researchers use mobile phones to eavesdrop on koalas' conversations

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London, Nov 26 : Australian scientists are using mobile phones to listen in on koalas' conversations in an attempt to translate what they are saying to each other.

The boffins have placed mobiles in the trees of a koala territory to record their distinctive bellows.

Researchers have also tracked koalas on St Bees Island off northeast Australia by satellite to monitor their movements and mobile phones have been placed amongst the trees to listen in.

The mobiles have been charged by solar power and car batteries - and they are able to record the koalas' bellows.

Then, the phones download the recordings to a computer at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, reports the Scotsman.

Dr Bill Ellis, head of research at the University of Queensland Koala Study Programme, said: "We are studying whether males are talking to other males or to females, and how vocalisations might stimulate breeding behaviour in female koalas.

"Koala bellows can go from really quite short, sharp, and agitated bellows to long, slow, deep bellows that can last for over a minute. Interestingly, most of the bellowing seems to occur around midnight, not around dawn or dusk when we thought it might have occurred."

The study is being conducted to determine whether male koalas communicate by bellowing to mark out territory and whether bellowing is used to attract females during the breeding season.

Dr Ellis said: "Over the breeding season, males are quite active at the start but their movements die down and females have a spike in movement somewhere in the breeding season.

"After a male and female encounter - and we can't see what they are doing - the female lets out a high-pitched scream and immediately after the male emits a loud bellow."

The study's results could help experts to manage koala populations by informing wildlife officials of the best time to introduce new animals to a population and the best time to allow changes to koala habitats, such as urban development.

ANI

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