A longtime campaigner for the protection of the dwindling Tweed Coast koala population says there has been an alarming rate of death and disease of the animal around the Pottsville wetland area in the past year and is calling for urgent action to stem the decline.
Four koalas from the Black Rocks sportsfield area south of Pottsville have been put down (euthanased) in that time, one was found dead, while several sick animals have been sighted and still roaming untreated, according to local Dave Norris.
Mr Norris, the president of the Threatened Species Conservation Society, has been monitoring and recording koala movements in the area around Black Rocks, where he lives, for years and urged authorities including Tweed Shire Council to do more to protect them.
He says koalas in the wetland corridor there ‘needs to be afforded greater protection from disturbance associated with the use of the Black Rocks sports field’, and recent evidence of more death and disease has made the issue urgent.
Mr Norris this week made his plea to state government ministers and agencies, councillors, shire staff and local MPs.
But he takes aim squarely at council for its recent approval of a controversial Men’s Shed for the sportsfield and decision over koala protection gates there.
He told authorities that council had a ‘duty of care to retain koala protection by ‘not removing the koala protection gates so that night time access will be re-introduced and the threat of disturbance, stress-related disease, vehicle strike and dog attack increased’.
Council should lock the gates at all times, he says, except for authorised access ‘as recommended by council’s koala advisory committee’.
Mr Norris also calls for council to ‘reduce, not increase, koala-impactive development and sporting/recreational activities at the sports field site’.
In his letter, he cited koala expert Dr Steve Phillips’ conclusion that increasing development pressure on the sports field amounts to ‘an abrogation of council’s responsibilities to koala conservation in the Tweed’.
He also wants model glider and petrol-powered model aeroplanes banned from the fields; to ‘re-schedule cricket matches and other sporting events to alternative available venues’; and enforce regulation of prohibited activities such as dogs, motorbikes, golf.
The latest koala death was a five-year-old female called ‘Sandy’, captured in a forest red gum by a Friends of the Koala volunteer in an established koala breeding area in the koala corridor east of the sports field and taken to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital on 9 January, where it was euthanased.
Mr Norris said ‘Sandy’ had suffered from severe conjunctivitis, bilateral ovarian cysts and gastro-intestinal tract problems.
Three other koalas were euthanased in the past year; two sick koalas remain at large and untreated; a dead koala was found in the red-gum breeding area north-east of sports field; a sick koala joey is currently being treated at the Currumbin hospital; and at least another eight had been sighted ,with photos revealing Chlamydia-like symptoms.
Mr Norris calls on the authorities to ‘please reply with details of effective actions they will implement to address the significant incidence of koala human-related disturbance, disease and death at the Black Rocks sports field site’.
He urged people to report any injured or sick koalas to Friends of the Koala’s hot line at 02 6622 1233.