Plight of the Koala
What’s happening to the Koala?
It is estimated that since Europeans came to Australia, koala numbers have dropped from around 10,000,000 koalas to less than 100,000 koalas today. A big contributor to reductions in koala population was the koala fur industry of the early 1900s. A six month period in 1919 saw 1,000,000 koalas killed in Queensland, and in a one month shooting season in 1927, over 800,000 were slaughtered.
Habitat loss is also a major contributor to koala numbers – more than 80% of original koala habitat has been cleared, and the remaining koala habitat is under threat from urban development, agriculture and forestry. Around 80% of present day koala habitat is privately owned land, so at this stage it is very difficult to protect koala habitat.
Perfect habitats for Koalas, with rich fertile soil for producing koala food trees, are also the same places that more and more Australians like to live. One of Australia’s prime koala habitats is South East Queensland – in recent years, more than 600 people have been moving to this region every week, making it Australia’s fastest growing urban footprint. Housing all these extra people has directly impacted on koala habitat. A number of koala specialists have said that the Koala Coast of South East Queensland will have no koalas left in the next five years.
Habitat loss, fragmentation of habitat, cars, dogs, bush fires, climate change, stress and disease are continuing to contribute to over 4000 koala fatalities per year. With some koala population estimates suggesting that there are as little as 43,000 koalas left Australia wide, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise how grave the situation has become.
Koala and tractor.
Photo: Mark Gerada.
Near Pimpama, Queensland, May 2011. Photo: Mark Gerada.