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South East Region Conservation Alliance Inc | FORESTS | KOALAS

Will zoos soon be the only places to see the last coastal koalas?

"(these) koalas are probably the most critical population in Australia in the sense that they may represent one of only two reservoirs, very small ones, of what is the native genotype of all of the Victorian and South Australian animals left." Dr Alistair Mezler, Uni of Central Queensland, evidence to Senate Inquiry, May 2011.

Species loss from human degradation of the environment is preventable. Koalas are at the top of the species chain, equivalent to the orangutan of tropical forests in maintaining forest health.

Once these southeast woodlands and forests "rained" down with koala pee. This animal is a vital part of the nutrient cycle of our forests and soils. Koalas were seen in the streets of towns such as Bermagui.

Clearing for agriculture, hunting for pelts and dog meat wiped out hundreds and hundreds of thousands last century. Logging, mainly for taxpayer subsidized woodchip logs (over 90%) is now recognized as pushing these coastal koalas to regional extinction.

Here on the southeast coast of NSW, at the base of the sacred Mumbulla and Gulaga Mountains, logging is taking place within meters of where 30-50 healthy, breeding koalas have been surveyed during the past 2 years; there may be as few as 200 left in the entire region. Logging is again scheduled to log hundreds of hectares in the forests where koalas have been sighted.

Surprisingly, given this population’s small size, DNA analysis by Sydney University has shown that this population, one of two remaining Strzlecki genotype koalas are genetically strong, and thus potentially able to increase their numbers without some of the inbreeding problems that have affected other distinct koala populations.

Koalas need space. They need space to find the most nutrient rich leaves for their highly specialized diet; they need space so that young males, forced from their homes, can find new territories; they need space to handle our changing climate with more frequent and longer droughts; and they need space if their population is going to grow to a more viable size, capable of withstanding major events such as fire or disease.

It is this space that they are being denied. And for what? For the sake of a few months supply of sawlogs and woodchips. Once forests have been logged and burnt, we may have prolonged the inevitable decline of the local sawlog industry, but we will have lost our koalas forever!

It is also no good just thinking that we can log carefully. The Koala should be listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) and Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) again is included under EPBC Act to protect this "icon" of Australia.

The Bega Valley Shire has recently been proclaimed as Australian Coastal Wilderness Landscape, in order to attract high value tourism to the world's most accessible temperate forests. Proper legislation could help protect and repopulate this beautiful region with that most desired of animal tourists wish to see, the koala.

How sad if the only place our grandchildren and tourists can see koalas and the other species found in their habitat zones, is a zoo.

Private Native Forests flyer on koalas

GPS location was 36° 34.960'S 149° 57.671'E or approx GR 649474 Mapsheet BROGO 8824-1N at 4pm Sat 21 Aug.

Koala hitches ride on canoe in Australia - A curious koala surprises a group of canoeists in Australia's Gold Coast, by swimming across a river towards their canoe. The animal swam across Tallebudgera Creek and was lifted into the canoe. Koalas are not known for their swimming skills, often drowning if they fall into a swimming pool when taking a drink

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Views expressed on this site are attributed solely to their author | South East Region Conservation Alliance Inc. | Copyright 2012 | Bronte Somerset, Web Editor
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