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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Bluesfest and koalas

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I refer to the editorial ‘Bluesfest rejects claim it causes koala deaths’ dated 22 January 2016.

Dr Steve Phillips is a professional wildlife ecologist and former university lecturer with over 35 years of experience in all facets of natural area management from the investigation and planning of new conservation areas to the design of specialised survey programs for threatened plants and animals.

Among other things he is an internationally acknowledged authority on the ecology, conservation and management of koalas, has spoken at national and international conferences and written popular articles, book chapters and scientific papers, the latter published in various conference proceedings and journals such as Pacific Conservation Biology, Australian Mammology, Biological Conservation, Australian Journal of Botany, Australian Zoologist, Wildlife Research and Conservation Biology.

This highly respected koala expert is not ‘hysterical’; to the contrary his research and findings are measured, science-based and peer-reviewed before publication. Stress from noise and other disturbance is linked with disease, according to the results of Dr Phillips’ research and others.

The Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation Koalaland Report (Coomera) (refer http://issuu.com/koalaland/docs/koalaland-report/15# ) has gathered information relating to koala disease from researchers, scientists, vets, wildlife carers, wildlife rescuers and zoo keepers.

They state that in the wild a large proportion of koalas live with Chlamydia. However, the symptoms of the disease only manifest when koalas are stressed, thereby causing their immune system to become compromised. When this occurs they are unable to fight the Chlamydia bacterium, which then becomes dangerous and fatal.

Koalas become stressed due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, dogs, road trauma, bush fires and disturbance generally. Koalas are especially prone to Chlamydia when their home ranges are isolated due to fragmentation of habitat – families stop breeding and reproducing, and koalas die off.

James Warren & Associates’ analysis of the Black Rocks by the Sea Koala Plan of Management 2004 [3.4 Threatening Processes page 11 (f)] include: ‘Disease may be a major threat to the Pottsville koala population. Animals most at risk are those which occupy disturbed or isolated habitats which are subject to human related disturbance’.

It is unacceptable that stress-related disease is continually written off as ’cause unknown’ with no investigation and/or effective measures implemented to prevent further koala deaths.

With so few koalas left on the Tweed Coast, it is Tweed Shire Councils’ duty of care to apply the precautionary principle and heed the analysis of experts such as these.

David Norris
, president
 Threatened Species Conservation Society Inc

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