Conserving Central Queensland's Koalas

Mining and agriculture in Central Queensland are threatening koala habitat

I just got back from Central Queensland University in Rockhampton where the Koala Research Centre of Central Queensland hosted koala conservation workshops. Convened by Dr Alistair Melzer of Central Queensland University and Dr William Ellis and Dr Sean FitzGibbon of University of Queensland, the workshops brought together local, national and international koala experts to focus on koala issues specific to Central Queensland. Although there are lower density koala populations in this region, these populations are just as important as the populations under threat in other regions like South East Queensland.

Central Queensland is the largest coal reserve in Australia and the 34 operational coal mines extract over 100 million tonnes annually, representing 83 per cent of Queensland’s coal production, its most important export commodity. This also means further destruction of koala habitat, which is further pressured by expanding urban footprints to house the extra workforce, and more collisions and fatalities as a result of increased road traffic and coal trains. Central Queensland koala habitats are also threatened by agricultural pressures.

The purpose of these koala workshops were to discuss solutions, and despite the incredible challenges the koalas are facing in Central Queensland, it was encouraging to see what happens when great minds come together to work together – what I observed was not only incredibly interesting, but impressive in terms of the constructive outcomes and task forces that were set out. It was inspiring to see the work of people like Professor Frank Carrick,Professor Clive McAlpine, Dr Delma Clifton, Associate Prof Darryl Jones, Rolf Schlaglogloth, Dr Stephen Johnstonand Dr Christine Adam-Hosking. Various departments from all levels of government were present, notably Wade Oestreich (The Department of Environment and Resource Management‘s National Parks, Marine Parks and Forests) who explained how koala planning policies work and showed the progress of their koala tree forest rehabilitation schemes so far. Landholders provided anecdotes and solutions, and zoos like Dreamworld and San Diego Zoo offered their resources to assist in the process of koala recovery and disease research. I also presented the latest Koala Land report draft (which we will launch in early March), and received encouraging feedback from the various parties present at the workshops.

You can read more about the workshops here, and you can listen to the ABC’s Jacquie Mackay coverage here.

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