It’s the picture postcard symbol of Australia. “Because they’re nice and furry and cuddly.” “They’re looking like toys.” “I’d be really hard put to find another mammal that is so recognizable internationally and so beloved.” But love alone, the experts say, is not enough to ensure the koala’s future. I can tell you that I believe the koala’s future in this country is bleak, very bleak.
The eucalyptus forests that had been home to the koala’s are being increasingly claimed and cleared for housing, farms and roads. And according to Deborah Tabart, the Executive Director of the Australian Koala Foundation, each tree lost just adds pressure to these animals’ precarious state. Well this is exactly the sort of habitat that used to be all over Australia. This is prime koala habitat and in the last 200 years since we’ve been here we’ve cleared about 80% of this. So the foundation is pushing for a national koala act, a law to protect the remaining forests including incentives for private landowners to help.
“To have a visionary piece of legislation that says look, this is the way it is. We’re not telling you that you can’t do everything, but if you want something for future generations you’re going to have to make some concessions because you can’t keep doing it the way it is.” According to a 1996 study done for the foundation, the koalas are a big revenue earner, contributing around three-quarters of a billion US dollars every year to the Australian economy. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane combines conservation and tourism to the delight of visitors. “Okay, welcome to Lone Pine. Do you wan to come through and hold my koala?” The foundation says the koala has been decimated over the past two centuries, estimating the population has declined from about 10 million to possibly fewer than 100,000 which is why the foundation is so determined to make the National Koala Act a reality.