With koala breeding season here, we find out more about their plight by speaking to people in the Gold Coast community involved in koala conservation.
Read Part 1 here.
In Part 2, we find out what it takes to be a koala rescuer from Karen Scott, President of Wildcare. Plus how will the anticipated South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy address koala decline on the Gold Coast.
Karen Scott joined Wildcare Australia Inc. initially as Treasurer. A qualified vet nurse, she has been President of the not-for-profit organisation for nearly 20 years. Wildcare comprises a group dedicated volunteer wildlife rescuers who service a large geographical area from the NSW border north to the Logan River and out west to Boonah.
Karen herself is involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of many native species, particularly koalas and echidnas. We asked her what it’s like to rescue koala on a regular basis.
What does it take to become a koala rescuer?
You need to gain quite a lot of experience with caring for other mammal species e.g. possums, gliders, macropods. The skills and experience gained in caring for those species I think puts you in a better position to be able to care for koalas. Koalas have a variety of challenges when caring for them. They have a poor immune system, can hide illness well and have specialised housing and feeding requirements. Getting experience with rescuing adult koalas first, then caring for adult koalas or volunteering with them in a wildlife hospital or facility is a good stepping stone to caring for younger koalas. It does a take a high degree of commitment to care for koalas, particularly with trying to source adequate quantities of good quality eucalypt leaves.
Is there one particular koala rescue or rehabilitation story that stays in your mind?
It can be a very confronting task rescuing koalas because often you recognise straight away that they are so sick from disease that they will be euthanised. It is also very distressing to attend rescues where koalas have had altercations with dogs. That affects our volunteers quite deeply. Having a koala die in your arms is something that stays with you. We do though get to release some healthy koalas back to the wild which is why we all do this to start with. That is the most rewarding experience.
Do you have enough wildlife rescuers at the moment or are you looking for more?
We always need more wildlife carers, particularly for those species which we get the most into care for such as birds and possums. We do always need more people to train to become koala rescuers. We accept new memberships all the time and we offer new member training regularly. Specific training for koala rescues is offered twice a year and koala rehabilitation workshops are offered every 12-18 months.
If you could have your way, what changes would you like to see to improve the outlook for koalas on the Gold Coast?
- More support for volunteer wildlife rescuers and carers
- Less destruction of critical koala habitat
- Purchase of important koala and wildlife habitat so that it can be protected
The question for many conservationists now, is how concerns like Karen’s will be fully addressed in the pending South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy. “While the full strategy is finalised, we are acting swiftly by releasing new mapping and stronger planning regulations” said Leeanne Enoch, Queensland’s Minister for Environment, in February.
“Over 577,000 hectares in South East Queensland is now identified as Koala Priority Area, which includes habitat and areas identified for rehabilitation.”
Is this enough progress? Groups and individuals have expressed their concern that exemptions in the current draft strategy still allow damaging land clearing in urban areas. This will inevitably lead to ongoing unsustainable clearing and development of koala habitat that will directly impact communities in these areas.
As Gold Coasters, we embrace our biodiverse region. We should also want assurance from state government that their conservation laws will not be counter productive to local programs. City of Gold Coast works hard to manage koala conservation efforts through its Koala Conservation Plan and encourages residents to do their part in protecting koalas.
Although its important to have effective collaboration between state and local authorities, we can’t forget that we too have the power to create meaningful change. Compassionate, committed volunteers like Karen Scott (who climb out of bed and drive out to rescue injured koala at all hours of the night) are a large part of the reason why koalas survive and are able to continue their breeding cycles. Let’s not underestimate that our community spirit and love of our suburban wildlife can bring koalas back from the brink.
Have your say.
Add your name to this e-petition addressed to Queensland Parliament and support stronger planning and protection laws for koala.