Koala Chat - Dec 2014

Queensland Koala Crusaders Inc (QKC) has gone through many changes this year and we have been quite busy.  The next year is likely to be full on and we are resting up and storing energy now for what is to come in the New Year!!

The New Year will provide us with a renewed focus, whilst maintaining our original mission to be “a voice for the koala”.

Of particular note, in co-operation with the Bob Irwin Wildlife Conservation Foundation, IFAW and multiple other wonderful conservation organisations, we have recently created the Australian KOALA Alliance (aKa) and, with a collective voice, we will strive to create big changes in koala conservation through collaboration and increased resources.

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we can work together and work smarter for a better future for our beloved icon.

Our joint campaign is just beginning to be formed and we need all of you to be active in supporting this mission.  We will keep you informed about how you can help.

Meanwhile, in the past few months our QKC membership drive has seen an increase in membership from just a handful of enthusiastic people to over 50, which gives us eligibility to apply for DGR status (meaning that donations of $2 or more can be tax deductible). We will be applying for this in the New Year and it is our hope that future “Land Trust” donations will be tax deductible for our valued supporters.  I am grateful to each and every one of you that is in our membership base and for our committee members who do everything tirelessly and often without thanks!  We owe our success to you!

Much of the early part of this year was spent researching and preparing for our keynote presentation at the National Koala Conference (in May) in Port Macquarie, NSW.    In tandem with our school presentations and local film screenings, we created a new and powerful film that we wanted to show to the experts and diverse body of attendees at the conference.  The presentation left many with a tearful eye and it silenced the room.  The end motivation we all agreed upon, was that we must do more for the koala ... and we must do it now ... before it is too late.

Since then, there have been successful campaigns and some disappointments.  We must keep the pressure on for continued success.

Koala numbers in South East Queensland have decreased dramatically and this current breeding season has again brought more death and disease into wildlife care facilities.   In Somerset alone we lost 300+ koalas!  Rescuers and carers suffer greatly, witnessing the death of so many animals. 

Koalas that are fortunate enough to recover from car hits and dog attacks are required to be put back within 5 km of where they were rescued from (under Queensland Government policy).  Yet, with drastic clearing of habitat for development and infrastructure, we are left in a quandary as to where they can be released safely.  This policy must be changed to a common-sense approach and we will again lobby the State Government for positive change in 2014.

Koalas presenting with reproductive disease are currently required to be euthenased, also according to Queensland Government policy.  As they are otherwise healthy, we believe that these lives have value and, in the current climate of pending koala extinction in many regional areas, this policy too has to be urgently addressed. 

We subscribe to the mantra of “thinking globally and acting locally”.   With this in mind, if a local education and research facility – a koala sanctuary - could be created and funded, these “un-releasable” animals could serve as ambassadors for the species and would give tourists and locals alike a place to see koalas in their natural environment, rather than in a zoo.  It would also allow these koalas to live out the end of their lives in a safe environment.

Currently koala habitat is not protected in a sustainable way and this was underlined by the recent announcement by the Queensland Government of the go-ahead of the Mt Cotton Quarry expansion.  This was a big blow to the koala community and we hope it is not a taste of things to come.  It seems that, although the koala is listed federally as vulnerable to extinction in Queensland, poor examples of government planning are leading to even poorer outcomes for koalas.  At Mt Cotton, nine years of strong community campaign work, led by Cornubia residents Luke and Jean Daglish, to protect this important koala habitat, was wiped away by Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney, who exercised the State Government’s call-in powers – against the recommendations of the local Council.  Mining, money and greed unfortunately seem to be a focal point for this government, rather than true sustainability – “enough for all, forever”.  As the koalas’ primary food trees are clear cut and offset with new planting, the new trees are not protected.  We therefore question the rationale of these offsets.  The AKF’s motto of “No tree, no me” is the reality of the future if no real balance is found.  Extinction is forever!!

So with this in mind, QKC is more motivated than ever to insist upon change, particularly at a government policy level, and to further motivate those outside “the choir” to believe that saving the koala really means saving Australia as we know and love it – that includes the unique flora and fauna that make this land so special!  Can you imagine Australia with no wild koalas or kangaroos, or the bush that sustains them?  It is time to ask - will our grandchildren want to inherit just another grim vision of a concrete jungle with limited individuality?

2013 also gave QKC “Concerts for Koalas” here in Australia, as well as in the United States.  There were film screenings of “Making Room for the Koala” locally, as well as overseas, and educational outreach to schools and community groups helped to give a broad focus to the crisis at hand. 

We helped out with tree plantings in Moreton Bay, with our friends from Koala Action Pine Rivers, and in Noosa teamed up with Noosa & District Landcare.  Our intention is to support more habitat rehabilitation in the future.  Moreover, we are currently looking for suitable land within the Noosa Biosphere Reserve, to be a focal point for a sanctuary and Land Trust.   

QKC also provided educational outreach at several music festivals and the Noosa Biosphere Festival.  We will have a stall at the Woodford Folk Festival over the next few days, so come by and say hi and let’s talk koalas!

We try to remain hopeful in a rising climate of government-approved environmental destruction.  May 2014 be the year that, together, we turn things around for the benefit of our furry friends and for future generations! 

We extend peace and love for a wonderful holiday season.

Meghan Halverson