Major re-think required on koala protection

GROUPS representing various aspects of koala conservation were present at a seminar attended by 50 people and conducted by Noosa Landcare under an "everybody's nature" State Government grant.

Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart said that the idea that we could replace koala habitat with offsets was idiotic.

"We should not be cutting down koala-preferred trees in the first place," she said.

Ms Tabart said surveys counting koala numbers were a waste of time, and were meant to give the impression  something was actually being done to help at least maintain populations of the iconic Australian.

"The koala is a big tourist drawcard, but the experience seems to be limited to seeing them in zoos," she said.

Ms Tabart said extensive habitat mapping carried out by the Koala Foundation had laid the basis for at least knowing what areas of suitable habitat were out there.

"We didn't count koalas, we looked for where they should be," she said.

"Knowing that could lead to introductions from other areas."

Koalas in the south east of the state are fighting what seems to be a losing battle with the three major dangers - disease, dog attacks, and being hit by vehicles.

To attempt to treat many sick and injured koalas, the Australian Zoo wildlife hospital has as many as 80 koalas in care at any one time.

Jennifer Adams, senior veterinary nurse at the hospital, said they cared for any wildlife, and under government regulations animals able to be returned to the wild must go back within 5km of where they were found.

"This is not the best solution," she said. "We have the same koala coming in a number of times after suffering the same accident."

"Most patients are in the three to five year age group. At this stage they are moving away from home territory."

Ms Adams said land clearing, especially for urban development, reduced habitat and placed stress on koalas.

"This leads to increased disease problems such as chlamydia," she said.

"We keep very detailed records of treatments and later monitoring."

She stressed that dog attacks did not have to be by large dogs, and that koalas could be killed by the smaller breeds as well.

Land for Wildlife officer on the Sunshine Coast Dave Burrows said that it was up to all of us to do what we could, and that allowing forest regeneration was better than replanting, trying to copy natural areas.

All speakers emphasised that decisions should be based on what was good for the well being and future of the koala.



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