22 June 2011

Greetings from Washington DC.

Well the excitement of winning the IABC EXCEL Award is fading, but there are lots of wonderful memories. During the Conference I met so many amazing people and I know that IABC-ers now have the koala in their hearts and minds. Now let us see what we can do with the IABC Cuddles for Koalas Challenge.

Last night (morning Australian time) I spent an hour on the phone listening to, and being interviewed by, Michael Cathcart, the presenter of Bush Telegraph. I have always wanted to be on this radio program and I was not disappointed. You can click here to listen to the interview. As always, the ABC did a marvellous job showing all sides of the debate. My favourite was Dr Ann Moyal, the author of 'Koala, A Historical Biography', a marvellous book which is available in our online gift shop, and also Helen Glad, the grand-daughter of my favourite Australian Norman Lindsay, who wrote the Magic Pudding. What a fabulous show.

A little more disappointing was Senator Fisher, the Chair of the Senate Inquiry who said there are no firm statistics or maps about where koalas are, and worse still, how many koalas there are in Australia. I would like to remind Senator Fisher that the AKF tabled our Koala Habitat Atlas Maps at the Senate Hearing in Brisbane and I am very concerned that she continues to take the former Government's line about koala numbers stopping a listing. Please write to Senator Fisher today and ask her to re-look at AKF maps.

My frustration levels this morning are high, particularly as the mapping methodology for these maps are Award winning, as far back as 1998 here in this very city where I write my Diary. How come the Australian Government absolutely refuses to acknowledge the tremendous effort of our organisation? How come they do not have any maps to offer as an alternative? And how come they cannot take a precautionary approach 'just in case' we are right? Which sadly, we are.

There will be a third hearing of the Senate Committee in Victoria sometime late in July, and I fear the dreaded 'there are too many koalas in Victoria' issue will rear its head again. Whenever a 'listing of the koala' discussion occurs, the Victorian Government always seems to be sterilizing koalas somewhere on an island, and yesterday's program was no exception. Listening to vets being interviewed while they are at the operating table sterilising animals, it all sounds so caring and benign, but as I said then and now, 250 koalas on Raymond Island that have the same genes as every other koala on Victorian islands, should not step in the way of protecting the species on its original geographic range (the whole east coast of Australia). I am firmly convinced this is more of a smokescreen than we ever imagined, particularly as logging occurs unabated in Victoria. If the Koala was listed federally, there would be more scrutiny, and I believe all areas of industry fear this happening.

The United States Government in their determination to list the koala in the year 2000, made the point very strongly that just because you have a few management issues on a few sites does not mean you do not have potential extinction curves. In fact it is probably an indicator that you really do have a problem. I would encourage all Senators to read this document. I noted that Senator Brown asked the Federal Environment Department witness Ms Callister to read it in readiness for the Victorian hearings.

I will be back in the chair at the office on July 4th, and in the meantime I am meeting with U.S. legal representatives to help the AKF write a National Koala Act that will be modelled on the Bald Eagle Act. Stay tuned.

Regards, Deborah