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Change is in our midst

4 February 2020 –

Hello Koala Lovers,

Thank you for the letters of support since my last Diary. I am very grateful.  

I sit down to write to you almost every day and then something else happens to Koalas and it is almost impossible to find the right words.

Let me start with the good news. Dave Mitchell, our Landscape Ecologist, produced this map which shows the fire areas of what we believe to be Koala Habitat. Look how small Kangaroo Island is on that map, so we must put that particular Koala issue into perspective when you think of national losses. The media are constantly wanting to ask for dead Koala numbers and until all the fires stop and people can get into the bush; no-one will really know. Fires have also begun again in the last few days near Canberra and our summer is not over. In fact my garden this morning feels like it usually does at the beginning of summer, so I truly think our seasons are changing. Trees that should have had their leaves in December are just getting them now, so I think all of us must look at how we think about our gardens and even when to plant our crops and vegetables. So much change in our midst. 

So numbers of Koalas that have perished. I think it is less than the media and even the Minister in New South Wales is saying. What I think is that small populations of Koalas like those around Bega and Mallacoota will take years, decades and maybe even centuries to recover. It might be a small number we have lost, but the impact to long term conservation is enormous. This is hard to communicate to the media. They just want to sensationalise things and of course I am grateful that our Governments are realising how important Koalas are to the world.

AKF has never believed there were 50,000 Koalas on Kangaroo island, so if 50% of them are dead by Government figures then 25,000 Koalas have died. Shocking to even think about. If AKF is right and we think there were only 13,000 Koalas on the island, then it is a much lesser number and isn’t it just marvellous to see the Australian Army volunteering to feed Koalas on that beautiful part of the world.

And now all these Koalas in Victoria, probably around 100 or so, have been killed, maimed or starved in a plantation logging regime. As you will see in the attached story, the law that could or might take “someone” to be called to account was written in 1975. I will also remind everyone too that the Victorian and South Australian Governments (KI is in SA) pleaded with the Australian Government not to list the Koala under federal laws in 2012. I wonder why? Perhaps logging is one of the reasons. Even the Mayor of Kangaroo Island is saying that the fires were exacerbated by European pines which are highly flammable.

More bad news; forestry are even asking if they can go into National Parks so they can “thin” the burnt forests which according to scientists would be disastrous and could create more fires into the future.

What everyone needs now is a level head and my rage has started to subside. I want the AKF and our Koala Habitat Atlas to be part of the future for the recovery of the Koala. Detailed maps (and Government does not have them and if they do, they are inaccurate), are needed to play a vital role in deciding on how and where Koalas can recover. So many people are offering their land so they can help Koalas recover, but unless you can look at a map and decided “yes, they will be safe there”, everyone will just be fiddling while Rome burns. And Canberra is looking a lot like Rome right now.

Our Governments do not even see AKF as relevant in this crisis which says a lot. Too much truth in our maps and industry are scared to death of them. We are, and we will continue to push for the Koala Protection Act. Had the Act been in legislation, then either the logging company or the owner of the land would have had more restrictions on their activities. The Department too would have more power and would not have had to rely on the good and willing volunteers who brought it to the attention of the public. Listen to my recent interview on the ABC discussing this issue.

As I have said many times, the whole system is broken and our environment departments which are strapped for cash and staff will never get on top of this until the Prime Minister decides that the Koala is important to our nation. You would think he would have the message by now, wouldn’t you? Keep writing to him. He might get it one day.


P.S. Remember the Prime Minister could sign the Koala Protection Act today – it is ready to go.


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