It’s late-September, which is of course Australia’s Save the Koala month and I am wondering whether anything has really changed in the world of koala conservation. We are striving to “be the Change we wish to see at QKC!
For 30 years, we have known that koalas needed help and many have worked diligently to change their fate. Yet, koala population decline is as high as 80% in some regions and we are seeing localized extinctions already.
For the past 10 years that I have been involved since moving here we continue to do many of the same things with the same results as there is a lack of political will to truly do our best to save an iconic species.
The koala IS listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory under national environmental law but since their listing in 2012, little has been done for their recovery in a federal capacity and extensive land clearing has continued in both QLD and NSW that has taken its toll. When on the ground working in koala rescue and care, it can feel hopeless indeed.
State government have concluded their Koala Expert Panel report and we met Environmental Minister LeeAnne Enoch on Wednesday 5th September to ask some very pointed questions.
If you are new to the crisis facing the wild koala here are the challenges:
- Humans and koalas share the same habitat along the eastern seaboard of Australia where their habitat is threatened by increasing development and infrastructure. The government continues to approve habitat clearing with an offset as the solution. Offsets take at least 5 years before they are even palatable to koalas and disease is increasing at a rapid rate. We believe that we are at a tipping point and if government cannot put koalas and the many species that live under their umbrella as a priority in their action plans, we may lose them forever! We need connected corridors and increased habitat areas to be created.
- Disease is increasing and young koalas are showing up sick as well as those that are older. Breeding populations exist but genetic diversity is lacking in many areas and it may require our intervention in order for a robust and healthy population to be achieved. As we grow habitat, we need to consider the mitigation of disease and genetics in order for these planting projects to be successful.
- As human populations increase and we continue to “grow” our economy, we need to recognize that we live on a planet with finite resources. The trees that provide for koalas also provide for us and with climate change and temperature increases along the coastline, clean air and water availability need to be considered. Trees protect the planet and without them, not only koalas will suffer. We will too.
So what are some of the solutions??
- Stop habitat destruction and where development needs to occur, work with the environment and manage wildlife under a best practice principal. Re-assess Development applications at a local level and if it is within critical koala corridors, STOP the DA!
- Bank carbon by planting more trees and protect more areas of old growth habitat and remnant re-growth.
- Mitigate disease with early health checks and disease treatment as well as vaccination against chlamydia. Continue research for better practice and disease understanding in koalas.
- Increase genetic diversity through breeding programs and introduction of healthy koalas into a population leading to survival of the fittest.
- Create areas of sanctuary for healthy wild koalas.
- Provide areas of sanctuary and public education facilities that house non-releasable koalas who can serve as ambassadors for their species.
- Gain philanthropic support for koala recovery programs.
- Acquire land set in perpetuity for generations to come.
- Be a “VOICE for KOALAS” by joining us at: koalacrusaders.org.au
Great research is being done and we are beginning to work collaboratively but there are still areas of ego and debate that take away from what is necessary to save an irreplaceable population from extinction in the wild in our lifetime.We must make saving the koala a priority, work in closer partnership and do MORE in order to successfully save them in the wild. It may even be too late, but I have to remain hopeful that this is not the case.