Finding a way to secure the future of koalas
According to a global IFAW poll, the koala is one of Australia’s most recognisable and most loved animals. Yet, despite its fame, the species is in dire trouble, but there is hope.
Last weekend, I attended the first koala conference, hosted by the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie and sponsored in part by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
For many Australians their demise is well-documented, their trees are being cut down at an alarming rate to make way for industry and urban sprawl. These gentle creatures then come into direct conflict with modern living, all too often the victims of road kill and attacks from domestic dogs.
In areas where their habitat remains, they are at increasingly risk to bushfires - last summer one fire in NSW wiped out all but one koala. And, if that weren’t enough, the koala also has to contend with diseases including chlamydia and koala retrovirus. .
At the conference, it was heartening to hear carers, academics, scientists, vets and government officials discussing ways to protect the species.
So what is the answer? Last year koalas were listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. While this is a welcome move, and may afford them some token protection, until their habitat is protected they simply won’t survive.
As large swathes of gum trees are destroyed to make way for houses or harvested for pulp, our koalas are becoming homeless and orphaned. Millions of dollars and countless layers of planning and management have been devoted to conserving this iconic species but it’s simply not working.
In order to find a way to protect the koala, we simply need to stop cutting down eucalyptus trees! In fact, we need to plant more, regenerate forests and keep them safe from logging and mining. By conserving precious koala habitat we’ll also protect countless other native species. The future of koalas is most certainly in all our hands. There needs to be a ‘koalaborrative’ effort - every Australian needs to find a way to save our national icon.