Thursday, September 21, 2023

Open for Debate – Koalas

At the risk of venturing onto a minefield, this page will be devoted to the mixed array of articles, research, political announcements and commentary relating to koalas in Australia.

By gathering this material in one place, I hope that at least it will begin to demonstrate the complex nature of the issues involved and make readers consider statements more critically, especially statements by politicians and others with a financial interest.

It seems there is still much to be learnt about our koalas.  As time goes by, perhaps the range of verifiable facts will expand and so the right action to take to care for the koala species and the appropriate, balanced policy response will become clearer and more refined and any poor policy responses will be more open to challenge and correction.

As it is, it seems that the irresistible, innocent koala and people’s instinctive desire to see the species living well in the wild has become open to exploitation.

Certainly, the stories gathered here will show that there are many genuine people doing what they can to help koalas as carers, veterinarians, ecologists, spotters, land owners or managers, or by giving their time or money in other ways.  Those that have been quietly working for koalas for many years have been joined by more since the Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended the ‘endangered’ listing in February 2022 for koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and the prospect of extinction in our lifetime has been raised.

Also as you will see, Australian governments now speak in terms of millions, even billions of dollars, and millions of hectares of land for koalas and wildlife, with the koala as the icon. Some of this was previously productive agricultural land.

Yet there remains not a small amount of disagreement on fundamental facts – such as whether koala populations are in unnatural decline, and the role of forestry, land management and climate change in this.

So, as you follow the trail, you will see the assorted issues that make up what has become the complex political question of koalas in Australia including: the evidence base, policy implementation, the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), research integrity, the cost/ benefit analysis, land management, control and use, the socialisation of property, and food security. More will surely become apparent. 

As always, if you have expert experience or knowledge in this field, your input – as balanced and unemotional as possible, preferably debating the points and not the people – is invited. If you know someone who should contribute to this debate, let them, or me, know.



Koala dreaming? Too right!: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis. Koala plagues and megafires go together. Koalas are breeding faster than ever on all the soft young growth generated by Black Summer. The scrub development is unprecedented. Our next extreme fire season will kill more people and animals than ever before. But the koala is in no danger of extinction.


Saving koalas. Next steps for the Great Koala National Park: Sharpe, Moriarty

The NSW Government has announced the process to establish the Great Koala National Park, as well as a halt to timber harvesting operations in the 106 koala hubs within the area being assessed for the park ... ARR.News asked some questions of the Minister about koala surveys and research indicating that properly conducted forestry does not adversely impact koala numbers. A departmental spokesperson responded.

The Great Koala National Park is not an extinction panacea: Forestry Australia

The Minns Government’s proposed Great Koala National Park is not an extinction panacea for koalas, says the President of Forestry Australia, Dr Michelle Freeman ... "it is simplistic to suggest that locking away forests is the great panacea for saving koalas from extinction ... In fact, experience shows us that declaring a National Park does not equal koala population growth." 


Another incredible story about koalas: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis. Laura Chung from Sydney Morning Herald tells us “Members of one of the healthiest koala populations in Sydney are dying at an alarming rate, as chlamydia-infected koalas and housing development” get closer. Makes you wonder how many different koala ‘populations’ there are in our State Capital ... Premier Chris Minns has a terrible dilemma.


It’s time to report your koala encounters: Sunshine Coast Council

Sunshine Coast Council’s Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez thanked the photographer for reporting the koala sighting at Palmview Forest through the Queensland Government’s QWildlife app and is calling on others to do the same. “There are some amazing images of Sunshine Coast koalas being uploaded to QWildlife”: Councillor Maria Suarez.

Koala health

New tools in the fight to save the iconic koala: Plibersek

Chlamydia is a significant and widespread threat to the koala, impacting their reproductive health and causing infertility. This project will trial a new vaccine implant which would allow for koalas to receive their ‘booster’ dose of vaccine via the implant.


The Great Koala National Park: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis. The facts haven’t deterred the ecowarriors of North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) from trying to hasten the demise of the sustainable, renewable, solar-powered native timber industry. They don’t care about habitat for people, other than themselves. They’ve launched an application for an injunction to ‘save’ the overcrowded koalas that are breeding more rapidly than ever on all the soft new growth resprouting after the Black Summer holocaust that they helped to create.

Koala politics: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis. Since NSW koalas were declared endangered 12 months ago, they’re turning up everywhere. Here's the latest: "... uncovered a new population of 42 koalas at Coolah Tops, north west of Sydney, when the previous government only had five documented koala sightings in the area over the past 70 years." ... The new Minister says, “all estimates have koalas on track to be extinct by 2050” ... A few questions for the new Minister ...


Look up, look down and report koalas: Linard

A new app is allowing members of the public to act as citizen scientists by reporting koala sightings and providing accurate location and population data ... The Minister also announced $520,000 in grants for six projects that support long-term koala conservation in South East Queensland.

How you can help nourish precious koalas: Sunshine Coast Council

The Sunshine Coast community is encouraged to register a helping hand and join a tree planting day that will supply sick and orphaned koalas with fresh leaves. Sunshine Coast Council Parks and Gardens team, in partnership with Nambour, Woombye and Maleny Rotary clubs, Hinterland Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. and Cr David Law, will come together at Mapleton to plant 500 food trees for the local koala habitat.


After a month in care, koala Leto is up a gum tree

Leto takes no time at all to climb out of the cage and scurry up the white trunk of a eucalypt next to the Richmond River at East Coraki. Leto is a six year old koala who had a stained rump – indicating sickness – and so he was taken into care for a month.

Ecological history

Forest decline, koala plagues and megafires: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis's clear account of the history of the cycle of plagues and crashes of koalas in Australia's eastern states and the circumstances of those plagues and crashes makes one question whether the time frame for assessing the status of koalas should be 200 years, not 20, and whether the public perception about this much-loved animal is fully informed.

Great Koala Park - NSW

An open letter to the Hon. Chris Minns MP and the Hon. Penny Sharpe MP: Forestry Australia

Despite the public perception that the only way to protect species is to create more conservation reserves, Forestry Australia’s view is that koala recovery can best be achieved through a landscape-wide approach to active management of these populations and their forest habitats across all land tenures. There is considerable evidence that the National Park estate is continuing to be degraded due to unnatural fire regimes, pests and diseases, and a lack of active management to mitigate their impacts.


Federal grant to fund koala conservation in Queensland: AWC

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has secured $179,211 in new federal funding to assist in a three-part Koala conservation project at Curramore and Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuaries in Queensland ... Tim White, AWC Chief Operations Officer, welcomed the grant, saying it will help improve habitat, data and knowledge on Koala populations at both sanctuaries.

Koala conservation in Queensland – interview with Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Australia Rural & Regional News asks some questions about AWC's koala conservation projects and koala monitoring, and land and fire management of Andrew Howe, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Senior Field Ecologist and Peter Stanton, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Senior Ecologist.


Thousands more hectares of koala habitat protected forever: Griffin

Another 3,157 hectares of high quality koala habitat has been secured for the State’s national park estate ... Minister for Environment James Griffin said seven more properties spanning from near Tenterfield in the north, to near Cooma in the south have been protected in perpetuity ... Since 2019, the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government has secured more than 600,000 hectares for addition to the national park estate.


Christmas beetles and koalas – part of the whole big picture: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis. The principles of monitoring animal numbers are no different for koalas or beetles. Monitoring should not be an end. But the first step should always be to look at historical information. They are irruptive animals which sometimes occur in plagues. Koalas and Christmas beetles have both gone through booms and busts in the same places at the same times for the same reasons ... ARR.News asked some further questions of Vic.


More on koala monitoring: Brad Law

Australian Rural & Regional News followed up with some further questions for Dr Brad Law, NSW DPI Principal Scientist ... "We state that koala occurrence or site occupancy has been stable in hinterland forests of north-east NSW, which is not the same as koala numbers" ... "We don’t have any evidence that koalas are irrupting ..." ... "It does appear to be the case that nutrition is high in epicormic leaves produced after fire, and that koalas rapidly recolonise burnt areas if there is good connectivity with unburnt forest."

NSW koalas and industrial logging of the public forest estate: Sue Higginson

Sue Higginson responds to ARR.News questioning of the premise for the Green's introduced Forestry Amendment (Koala Habitats) Bill 2022 ... "All levels of Government agree that our Koalas have declined significantly in recent decades and that they are facing extinction in coming decades if threats to their survival are not stopped ... The legitimacy of the Law article is broadly contested": Sue Higginson, NSW Greens MP.

NSW koalas: NSW DPI responds

David McPherson, NSW DPI. Dr Law is one of Australia’s leading forest ecologists, with the sustained excellence of his research and distinguished service to Australian zoology recognised with his appointment in 2021 as a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW. In the history of the Society there have been fewer than 100 Fellows elected ... Criticisms of the scientific excellence or objectivity of the research undertaken by Dr Law are unfounded.

Koala monitoring and habitat: Vic Jurskis responds

Vic Jurskis responds to ARR.News questions including about the different methods for monitoring koalas, sustainable koala populations, koala habitat and the relationship with timber harvesting ... "Gathering numbers should not be an end. Deliberations of the TSSC assume that more is better. The koala’s ecological history of irruptions and crashes in numbers after European arrival clearly shows this not to be the case. Effective monitoring requires an understanding of the reasons for any real changes in numbers."


Koala update: Brad Law

Australian Rural & Regional News sought an update on koala monitoring from NSW DPI Principal Research Scientist, Dr Brad Law ... Key points from DPI Forest Science research include: New acoustic survey methods have demonstrated koalas occur more commonly throughout the north-east hinterland forests than previously appreciated ... Annual monitoring of koala occurrence in hinterland forests since 2015 has found a stable trend over time at a regional level. Trend data are generally not available from other regions ... A parallel study found that regulated timber harvesting had no significant impact on koala density ...

Farm forestry legislation - NSW

Private Native Forestry Bill: Saunders

The NSW Government will not proceed with the Environmental Protection and Assessment Amendment (Private Native Forestry) Bill. While this Bill upholds all existing protections for the environment, we will continue to have further conversations with local councils to progress legislation that unites communities and industry.

Monitoring - Qld

Toowoomba Regional Council seeks funding for koala mapping

Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) will explore funding options to undertake koala population mapping within the Toowoomba Region ...“While it’s believed the koala is prevalent throughout the Toowoomba Region, the reality is the total extent of the numbers and their exact locations are not known": TRC Environment and Community Committee Portfolio Lead Cr Tim McMahon.

Farm forestry legislation - NSW

Farm Forestry Bill supports timber industry and koalas: Gulaptis

Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis has welcomed the certainty the Bill provides to the timber industry and the significant koala protections included. “Farm forestry is a vital component of the NSW timber industry, generating about $482 million and employing 835 people on the North Coast alone,” Mr Gulaptis said.

The NSW Government has lost control on private native forestry: Higginson

The NSW Government is hanging regional councils and koalas out to dry with their latest plan to remove the right of local government to be involved with approvals for private native forestry. The koala wars that have defined the last 4 years of this coalition government are being refuelled under the noses of Liberal ministers and democratically elected councils by The Nationals: Sue Higginson, Greens NSW MP.

Forestry legislation - NSW

Greens to introduce Bill to prohibit forestry operations in koala habitat – saying it’s time: Higginson

“This bill is a signal to the Government that this is an essential step to saving koalas from extinction and is as simple as an amendment to the Forestry Act. We could save money, protect jobs and stimulate the economy while also taking immediate action to slow the extinction crisis in NSW": NSW Greens MP Sue Higginson ... Sue Higginson responded to a question from ARR.News.


Habitat boost for Northern Rivers koalas: Griffin

NSW Minister for Environment James Griffin said the landmark program is restoring koala habitat on private land, increasing biodiversity and providing an additional revenue stream for landholders through carbon farming ... ARR.News has asked a question of the Minister.


Koalas and bushfires: Vic Jurskis

The latest issue of Australian Zoologist is titled “Out of the ashes: Lessons learned from bushfires and how we can better manage our fauna”. But the editorial wrap-up suggests we’ve learnt nothing. It seems our fauna will continue to suffer from mismanagement under a Lock It Up and Let It Burn conservation’ paradigm. The abstract mentions monitoring, mapping and research, but the only reference to management is “use of supplementary resources such as nest boxes and artificial roosts to replace those lost in fires”.


Thirty koalas hit on roads, attacked by dogs in recent weeks: Tweed Shire Council

Motorists are urged to take care on the roads, particularly at dawn and dusk, following a horror spate of koala deaths and injuries so far this active season. Since mid-July, at least 30 koalas have been reported to have been hit by cars or attacked by dogs across the Northern Rivers.


More of the great koala scam: Vic Jurskis

Back in May, NSW’s Natural Resources Commission and Department of Primary Industries, as well as three universities, quietly published a report about forest monitoring. It states that north coast koala populations have been stable for the last five years, despite 30 per cent of koala habitat being burnt by the disastrous Black Summer megafires ... NSW bureaucrats obviously know that the koala population wasn’t adversely affected by Black Summer. So, one wonders why they’re not shouting the good news from the rooftops.


Koala numbers fall at Yanchep National Park

Koala numbers at Yanchep National Park have fallen with only half the population there now compared with three years ago. Prior to the 2019 Yanchep bushfire there were eight koalas in the colony located in the national park’s enclosure. But a Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) spokeswoman said there were now four koalas left in the colony.


Centre stage for our furry icons

Narrandera's treetop residents will take centre stage at the inaugural Koala Festival at the Narrandera Showground on Saturday ... It is being held to promote Narrandera’s free-ranging koala colony ... the colony is Narrandera’s tourism trump card and one of the shire’s greatest natural assets.


Koala Festival brings in the crowds

Overcast skies and cold dismal weather did not deter the public from celebrating Narrandera’s free-ranging koalas at the inaugural Koala Festival on Saturday. The indoor/outdoor event was held at the Narrandera Showground with families arriving en mass to participate in the festivities, all of which were free, courtesy of a NSW Government grant. Almost 1000 festival-goers attended the event.


How much can a koala bear before it faces extinction? :Charles Sturt University

Charles Sturt academic, Dr Joanne Connolly explores what makes koalas unique and how Charles Sturt University is contributing to saving endangered populations, including research into the Narrandera koala population ... ARR.News asks some questions of Dr Connolly.


Chlamydia vaccine trial for koalas in South-West Sydney: Griffin

A chlamydia vaccine for koalas could increase the species’ resistance to the potentially fatal disease in a trial in south-west Sydney, which is part of an almost $1.7 million NSW Koala Strategy investment across the region ... “Chlamydia is a serious issue for koalas, leading to blindness, infections and infertility in this precious species. This disease weakens koalas and can make them more susceptible to dog attacks and other threats,”: Minister for Environment James Griffin


NSW Government invests in aboriginal koala conservation: Griffin

A $600,000 investment to support an Aboriginal koala habitat conservation project is being delivered as one of the first actions in the NSW Koala Strategy. Minister for Environment James Griffin said the project with the Gumbaynggirr community applies cultural lessons from traditional owners. “The traditional custodians of this land intrinsically understand how to care for their Country,” Mr Griffin said ... ARR.News has some questions for the Minister.

Aboriginal koala conservation: Vic Jurskis

I reckon the Monty Python team would have been jealous of the creative genius behind NSW’s Koala Strategy. It would be hilarious except for the $200 million price tag to save an irruptive species which is in much greater numbers across a much wider area than before the European ‘invasion’. Apart from Strzelecki, no explorer saw any koalas because they didn’t live in the grassy valleys occupied by Aborigines and sought by pastoralists.


Critical research into local koala population

Narrandera's iconic koalas are at the forefront of an exciting research project to assess the population, health and genetics of the free-ranging colony. The project, led by National Parks and Wildlife Service, swung into action last month when a six-member team of specialist veterinarians, NPWS staff and a professional tree climber arrived in town to undertake field work.

Koala research team visits

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has a team visiting Narrandera this week to conduct aspects of koala research in the Narrandera Reserve ... Dr Joanne Connolly from Charles Sturt University's proposed research will involve further steps in the research proposal to establish a koala research centre in Narrandera and will complement and build further on the data being collected by the team from the Koalas Biodiversity and Ecological Health Branch of NPWS.


More land secured for Coomera koalas: Qld Gov

Another 400 hectares has been secured to protect koalas in the Coomera Connector corridor. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Greenridge property at Pimpama, within the Gold Coast's Koala Priority Area, is one of the largest private, and suitable, land holdings close to stage one and future stages ... “The additional 400 hectares is next to the PRCA, creating almost 900 hectares to protect the local koala population and improve their home range and connectivity well into the future.”: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk