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What is the fate of Australia's iconic koala?

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 September 2012 02:02

koalas-killed-over-a-week-JoelSartoreThe Australian icon - the koala - is on the brink of extinction in its native bushland habitats. National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore took the photo shown in this article. Such a weekly death rate is unsustainable and will lead to the demise of our koalas outside of captive breed specimens in zoos - like China's panda bears.

Koala populations that used to be vibrant and sustainable are facing local extinction. Inadequate government legislation is to be held  acountable for this. Queensland has failed to do anything meaningful about the decline. Whether the newly elected government will improve the odds for koalas remains a question. The federal government needs to get involved and do it properly, listing the koala as vulnerable to extinction.  Such a designation might save the last remnants of critical koala habitat. Without habitat to provide a local food source the plight of the koala is bleak.

A recent report presented to the Australian Senate made several recommendations to save the koalas, including

  • listing the animals as threatened and vulnerable,
  • funding a program to monitor koala populations,
  • mapping their habitat, and
  • managing federal and private lands to protect the koalas.

All are essential and critical. Meanwhile local koala care groups in eastern Australia struggle to rescue rehabilitate and release recovered animals. Legislation requires that the koala is returned to its home range - a challenging exercise when widespread clearing for human settlement has occurred - or mining. The efforts of grassroots koala emergency squads will always be essential but individual carers must also be supported for expenses incurred.

The more koalas we lose, the more valuable each rescued koala becomes. The May edition of National Geographic relates some of the extraordinary challenges faced and meet by koala rescuers carers and local research people such as Deidré de Villiers who shares her home with recovering adults juveniles or dependant joeys. You can read their story here. Deidre has presented at past Logan and Albert Conservation Association workshops about learning to live harmoniously with koalas and other wildlife. It is possible if we are prepared to make some adjustments to the way we currently go about our daily lives.

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