Fears 179 koalas lost to bulldozers: WWF Australia

Koala drinking beside a road, March 2017 (© Sue Gedda / WWF-Australia).

AS part of a major campaign to save koalas, WWF-Australia today released an analysis to show tree clearing likely killed 179 koalas in South East Queensland (SEQ) in just two years, further pushing them towards localised extinctions.

Releasing his findings on Endangered Species Day (May 19), WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said after bulldozers destroyed their forest homes the koalas would have perished.

Dr Taylor said the Queensland Government’s land clearing reports showed that over 44 sq km of koala bushland – equal to about 4,400 rugby league fields – were bulldozed in SEQ from mid-2013 to mid-2015, following the weakening of tree protection by the former state government.

Using koala density maps* from the SEQ Koala Population Modelling Study, Dr Taylor calculated that the destroyed forest would have supported 179 koalas.

“Bulldoze their trees and you kiss the koalas goodbye – they’re forced to look for new homes and are then killed by cars or dogs. The only solution is state government action to rein in excessive tree clearing,” said Dr Taylor.

Research shows more than 2,000 koalas suffering fractures were taken to wildlife hospitals in SEQ over a 13-year period.

Vehicle collisions and dog attacks caused 93% of the fractures and only 2% of the injured koalas survived.

RSPCA Queensland also holds grave fears for the long-term survival of koalas in South East Queensland.

“From March 31 2016 to April 1, 2017, a staggering 323 koalas came into our Wildlife hospital at Wacol,” RSPCA Queensland’s Michael Beatty said.

“A large percentage of these were victims of traffic accidents and dog attacks and of course these incidents are linked to habitat destruction. There are also increasing concerns about where koalas can be safely re-released,” Mr Beatty said.

On the Koala Coast, koalas have declined by about 80% from 1996-2014 and in Pine Rivers koalas have declined by about 55% from 1996-2014.

It’s estimated the rate of the Koala Coast and Pine Rivers declines will result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations.

A new report prepared for WWF-Australia by Dr Christine Adams-Hosking shows that koalas are declining throughout Queensland – not just SEQ – with the destruction of trees forcing koalas into increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat.

53 per cent decline in koalas across Queensland

A panel of experts estimated that in Queensland overall, koalas have declined by 53% over the past three koala generations and the next three koala generations **

In southern inland Queensland, there has been an 80% decline in koala numbers, from an estimated 59,000 in 1995 to 11,600 in 2009.

In Central Queensland, 62 koala road deaths were recorded in a three-year period as traffic volume steadily increased as the mining industry expanded.

Researchers calculated that in some locations, koalas have on average less than 40 seconds to cross the road, and a much shorter window during peak periods.

WWF-Australia’s koala campaign wwf.org.au/savekoalas aims to save the iconic species and other wildlife by protecting forests.

WWF-Australia is encouraging people to create and send a digital origami koala, called a KIMBY (Koala in My Back Yard), to key Queensland politicians to encourage them to take action to stop excessive tree clearing.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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