As always getting up close and personal with a Koala is at the top of every Australian visitors “To Do” list. Here’s an article from the Gold Coast City paper that looks at koala conservation issues in the Gold Coast area.
Congratulations to the Dreamworld team who have been nominated in the Tourism & Travel category at the AIMIAs and as an honoree for the 2012 Webby’s in the tourism category.
The article text is below:
Play basketball with Australia’s newest NBL franchise? Tick. Live in one of the most dynamic cities in the world with beautiful beaches and World Heritage Listed national parks? Done. But there was one more thing – meeting our famous wildlife icons – the koala and kangaroo. At a recent encounter at Dreamworld, the pair met Ruby the koala and got to interact with kangaroos – a highlight so far of their time on the Gold Coast.
“I wanted to see a koala and a kangaroo so bad and it was just amazing,” says Adris, a New Yorker out here playing for the summer. For booming 206cm centre forward Will Hudson, the opportunity to play for the Blaze after he was recruited straight out of college at Oakland University has been a dream come true.
“It has been the experience of a lifetime and my friends and family back home are envious,” he says. “I have my brother out here with me and we live in Broadbeach, not even one minute from the beach. It’s incredible, we don’t even have a beach back home. Playing for the Blaze is a lot of fun and hard work, but there’s a good mix of experience and younger guys in there.” As for his first Australian up close experience with a koala, the imposing centre known as ‘Will the Thrill’, shows a softer side. “Man, it was the first time I have ever held a koala or actually seen one in real life. When I found out I was coming to play in Australia, I was excited about the chance to do that. Now I have and it was an amazing experience.”
When star basketball imports Adris Deleon and Will Hudson moved from their native US to play with our own Gold Coast Blaze in the National Basketball League (NBL), they wanted to tick a few things off their ‘to do’ list. While the next koala born at Dreamworld will be called Blaze, the plight to save one of our national treasures has never been more urgent. While it is difficult to imagine an Australia without koalas, the future of this iconic species is at serious risk.
In 2004, the furry marsupial was listed as vulnerable throughout South East Queensland. The Federal Government is now considering adding the koala to the list of nationally threatened species. Gold Coast City Council’s koala conservation project manager John Callaghan says the main threats to koala populations are habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, together with disease, traffic and dog attacks.
“The Federal and State Governments are working on measures to help reduce threats to koalas in the wild and provide for their ongoing conservation. At a local level, Gold Coast City Council is forging ahead with scientific research that will help inform future koala conservation programs and policies,” he says.
East Coomera Research commissioned by Council in 2006-07 showed that East Coomera and Pimpama were home to one of the city’s largest koala populations, with about 500 koalas occupying 3,640 hectares of predominantly rural-residential land. Much of this area had been committed years earlier for development of a new town centre. In response, Council sought approval from State Government to undertake scientific research and monitoring to better understand the impacts of this development on the koala population. Mr Callaghan says the program incorporates monitoring, health checks, community education and a trial koala relocation program.
“While conserving koalas in their existing habitats is the preferred approach, the trial will help determine whether relocation is a suitable option for restocking habitats with falling koala numbers, or to protect koalas living in depleted areas,” he says. Since 2009, Council has relocated more than 80 koalas from areas of high risk in East Coomera to the Lower Beechmont Conservation Area in the Gold Coast hinterland. The project is being led by Council in collaboration with experts including Dr Jon Hanger from Endeavour Veterinary Ecology and Professor Peter Timms of the Queensland University of Technology (QUI).
Groundbreaking vaccine trial
Council is also contributing to groundbreaking research that could hold the promise of a healthier future for koalas across Australia. OUT is developing a Chlamydia vaccine, which has shown encouraging results in trials on koalas in care at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Council is an industry partner in the project, providing researchers with crucial samples and data from the wild koala population at East Coomera. Professor Timms says Chlamydia is widely known as one of the most critical threats to koala populations in the wild and is of particular concern among koalas in South East Queensland and northern New South Wales.
“The thorough health checks carried out on East Coomera koalas have helped inform our research, and the samples collected from these koalas have enabled us to determine the types and extent of Chlamydial infection present,” he says. Plans are now being considered to trial the vaccine on wild koalas at East Coomera, subject to securing the necessary Government permits.
Elanora-Currumbin Waters In the city’s south, koala conservation is also in full swing. The Elanora-Currumbin Waters koala conservation planning project kicked off about four months ago. It aims to survey local koala populations, assess threats to koala survival and engage the community in protecting this vulnerable species.
It is one of several areas on the Coast that still support koala populations in a semi-urban setting. According to Mr Callaghan, koalas may not continue to survive in these environments without targeted conservation efforts. Council is partnering with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation and Wildcare Australia to develop a realistic and achievable plan.
It is hoped the project will provide a best-practice model for future koala conservation in other semi-urban areas in Gold Coast City. “The success of this project largely depends on our ability to get the community involved,” says Mr Callaghan.
“First and foremost, we need comprehensive data about local koala populations if we’re going to develop effective plans to help ensure the long-term survival of this species. That’s why we’re asking the community to report all koala sightings – whether the koalas are healthy, injured, sick or deceased.
“We have a koala hotline that’s available 24/7, as well as an online sighting form that the community can access to report information about koalas across the city.” Reports of injured, sick or deceased koalas are redirected to Wildcare Australia for action at any time, day or night. Injured and sick koalas are taken to Currumbin Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital for assessment and care by a dedicated team led by senior veterinarian Dr Michael Pyne. Koalas requiring longer term treatment are transferred to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. As well as reporting sightings, there are two simple things people can do to help prevent koala injuries and deaths – be a responsible pet owner and be aware on the road.
Mr Callaghan says most dog attacks on koalas occur between dusk and dawn, when koalas are most active. This is the time to keep your dog indoors or confined. Koalas also often cross busy roads to access habitat, and road fatalities are a major cause of death.
Protection of our threatened native species, including koalas. will continue to be an important role for Council as it rolls out a 10-year Nature Conservation Strategy that drives Council’s conservation and environmental programs, policies and research across the city.