Lismore’s Friends of the Koala (FoK) says it’s not too late to prevent koalas going extinct in the wild on the North Coast – but our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
Australia has one of the world’s worst records of modern extinction (54 species) and longest lists of threatened species (909).
And with koalas listed as vulnerable to extinction, FoK says it is human actions that ‘perpetuate this shameful situation’ and human actions that can halt it.
The registered volunteer group, which is arguably rescuing more koalas than any other in NSW, warns that ‘koalas will disappear from this part of the world unless behaviours change’.
Group president Dr Ros Irwin is calling one a community effort to ‘help us prevent a local extinction’.
Dr Steve Phillips, one of Australia’s leading Wildlife Ecologists who has studied koala populations extensively, said vulnerability ‘usually precedes the inexorable slide towards endangerment and the chance of a localised extinction event, the rate of which is only determined by society’s willingness to intervene and demand the necessary change.
Habitat loss is a core driver of the koala’s march to extinction. In north east NSW, koala populations have declined by approximately 50 per cent due to residential, commercial and infrastructure development.
‘Look at the enormous development planned for West Byron,’ Dr Irwin said.
‘They’re talking about a huge increase in Byron Bay’s population with a development facilitated by legal amendments to prevailing land-use planning on primary koala habitat. That’s happening in a coastal strip which is home to a dwindling population of less than 240 koalas. Going ahead with this development will support an ongoing litany of habitat clearing and fragmentation that’s slowly driving koalas to extinction.’
Other coastal estimated populations under pressure include Tweed’s now less than 100 koalas and Ballina’s 285-380.
Even Lismore’s estimated population of around 1,800 is following suit.
Every tree counts,’ according to Dr Phillips.
‘With 0.34 koalas per hectare, south-east Lismore has the highest density of koalas we’ve recorded anywhere on the far north NSW coast, and a very high occupancy of up to 70 per cent of available habitat.
‘This suggests habitat is at peak carrying capacity. The majority of koala habitat is on private land, reinforcing the importance of land owners to koala survival.
‘Maintaining habitat connectivity across the landscape is crucial for sustaining healthy, genetically diverse populations,’ says Dr Phillips.
Friends of the Koala is urging people to act.
‘We’re asking people to help us prevent a local koala extinction by taking some of the ten actions on our Action List, and asking friends and family to do the same,’ Dr Irwin said.
Some of the actions people can take include:
- sharing our koala’s plight with others,
- protecting habitat and opposing destruction,
- writing to politicians,
- planting koala food trees,
- maintaining a careful vigil for koalas especially on the roads, and
- containing dogs.
FoK 24 Hr Rescue Hotline: 6622 1233