Who speaks for the koala?

Who speaks for the koala?

If you are keen to know what Australia is doing to protect an iconic species of wildlife from dying out, we are not sure who to believe.

From a politician’s perspective – local, state and federal – the word is that the koala will not become extinct because they are doing what is necessary to ensure their survival.

From a state or federal officials perspective the word is tinged with less certainty but still claims that all that needs to be done is being done, so there is no cause for alarm.

From an ecologists and conservationists perspective there can only be certainly for the koala if sufficient habitat and diversity is preserved.

From a community of concerned citizen’s perspective the situation for the koala is dire.

And from a koala’s perspective?  Well koalas don’t speak.  Or is it that we’ve stopped listening?

So who are we to believe?  Would it be fair to say that there is no co-ordinated effort to protect the koala?

At a conference held in Port Macquarie last year, it was emphasised for the umpteenth time that “… while we are talking they are dying.”

A report by Linda Dennis: Hello Koalas Conference 2018 (Australian Wildlife Vol 4 Spring 2018) is worth noting.  ‘At the 2013 National Koala Conference Meaghan Halverson, founder of the Queensland Koala Crusaders said: “ … while we are talking, they are dying” … words to haunt your dreams.  At the 2017 National Koala Conference her message was not much cheerier  ” … we are still talking and they are still dying.”

How come we’ve arrived at this point in spite of conference delegates being informed of a wide variety of actions including: how art galleries can help raise awareness; exploring the role of modern zoos in koala conservation; an update on the Koala Health Hub; how acoustics provide new insights on koala status and response to timber harvesting; and, how “wood is good”, using sustainable, ethical wood for building and storing carbon and so on.

Says Linda Dennis: “Rebecca Montague-Drake from the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council told us that we are staring down the barrel of a gun by stating that there will be ‘functional extinction within 50 years’ if more isn’t done now.  … It is clear there are many threats facing the koala: disease, roadkill and injury, predator attack, urban development, etc. But as Cheyne Flanagan, (pictured at left) Clinical Director at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, told us, all these issues point back to one (critical) issue: the decline of the species is 100 percent due to habitat loss. Solve the puzzle of habitat loss (destruction), and all other issues will fall away.”

“There are now so many reserves and lands being protected, but they’re not linked and we are losing genetic diversity in the species.”

Closer to home, Pheobe Moloney in Clearing a concern for region’s koalas (Newcastle Herald 12.11.18) reports that: “The Hunter is one of the top 20 ‘hot spots’ for land clearing in the state, according to the WWF and the Nature Conservation Council.”  WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor said urban, industrial and mining developments were driving the loss of koala habitat. Changes to biodiversity laws hasn’t helped. Considering how the koala population has declined over the last 100 years no one seems prepared to say for how much longer habitat loss will be sanctioned in the name of human expansion at the expense of the koala.

The koala has a high public profile and features in many tourist publications. If we can’t rally to protect the koala, what is the outlook for lesser well known species?

For more visit anyone of these sites:

Australian Koala Foundation: https://www.savethekoala.com/

BioNet NSW: http://www.bionet.nsw.gov.au/

Hello Koalas Conference: https://www.hellokoalas.com/festival-2018/

Koala Health Hub: http://koalahealthhub.org.au/

Koala Hospital Port Macquarie: https://www.koalahospital.org.au/

Nature Conservation Council – NSW: https://www.nature.org.au/

Port Stephens Koalas: https://portstephenskoalas.com.au/