Koalas under threat

Australia's vulnerable koala population battles extinction

This very poignant article on the SBS website spells out quite clearly the awful plight of koalas.

Dogs could be banned from Queensland suburbs as koalas face extinction

Yes, you read it correctly... it seems that according to a panel of ( dare I say it ) experts assembled in response to a directive from Environment Minister Steven Miles to contrive some last ditch attempt to avert the impending ( some might say imminent ) extinction of Koalas in the Pine Rivers and Redlands ( aka The Koala Coast ). WTF is assembling yet another panel of academic mercenaries going to achieve ?!
I wonder what it'll be called once the Koalas are gone for good :-(

 

Panel chairman Associate Professor Rhodes said it was clear policies to "protect habitat" by themselves simply did not work. (sic) WTF !!!
"But it is really those threats from dogs and cars and disease which is driving those (koala) populations down." (sic)

 

Habitat protection policies aren't bloodywell likely to work if they're simply ignored anytime some developer gets their eye on an area which happens to be an irreplaceable wildlife stronghold, vis-à-vis Toondah Harbour !
I wonder how far Professor Rhodes thinks stray dogs wander ...
No-one would argue that dogs, cars and disease ( commonly Chlamydia which can cause blindness and female infertility ) kill many Koalas. The question is why have these threats reached the point where localised extinction is probable not just possible ?!
The answer is not only simple it's so obvious that it doesn't take a panel of scientists to figure it out - loss, degradation and fragmentation of suitable habitat !!!
Koalas are only vulnerable to dog attacks and car strikes when they're on the ground ( doh! ).
Koalas naturally move around seasonally for comfort, food resources, mating and young males establishing their own territory.
In suburban areas where habitable woodland is fragmented ( ie: no connecting corridors ) the distance travelled and time spent on the ground are significant and may involve crossing busy roadways, frequently at night.
Even at full speed a healthy adult koala can't move all that quickly and therefore can't outrun a dog or escape the path of a car travelling at speed. Koalas are notoriously fussy creatures when it comes to food and accommodation and therefore they won't necessarily relocate successfully which is why offering up so-called environmental offsets is unlikely to produce a satisfactory result.
The Australian Koala Foundation has excellent info about the threats faced by koalas if you want to read more.
Enough from me for now ...

 

Australia's Commonwealth Games mascot labelled an embarrassment with koala populations in 'freefall'

This rather sensationalistic headline appeared on an ABC article about Borobi the Koala being revealed as Australia's mascot for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Whether you agree with the choice or not isn't really the subject of this WTF however ...
In case you weren't aware Australia now has a federal threatened species commissioner one Gregory Andrews and Mr. Andrews has some seriously knowledgeable advisors -

  • Professor Helene Marsh (James Cook University, Chair,Threatened Species Scientific Committee)
  • Rachel Lowry (Director, Wildlife conservation and Science at Zoos Victoria, President of the International Zoo Educators Association)
  • Samantha Vine (Head of conservation, BirdLife Australia).
  • Atticus Fleming (CEO, Australian Wildlife Conservancy)

So when's the WTF going to appear? ... right here - Quote from the aforementioned TSC Gregory Andrews "climate change was the biggest threat to Australia's koalas, rather than development."
Where has this bloke been living?, on the freakin' moon?! ... and if this statement is an informed response fueled by the advice given to him then Where TF have his advisors been living ?!!
Did climate change decimate the koala population on the Gold Coast ?
Is climate change going to wipe out the koalas at Toondah ?
Is climate change going to wipe out the koalas at Ballina ?
What about the 281 koalas that died as a result of the construction of the Petrie to Kippa Ring rail line ? - difficult to attribute this slaughter to climate change I reckon
FFS if this wasn't serious it'd be freakin' hilarious

The article referred to above is Copyright © 2016 ABC

SEQ koala habitat mapping

The picture at left is a reproduction of part of South East Queensland Koala Conservation State Planning Regulatory Provisions (SPRP) koala habitat values map 20 .
These maps show koala habitat within assessable development areas defined under the SPRP.
The subject Koala habitat areas are shown as Dark Green and follow the coastline right along South East Queensland.

I added the Yellow outline to roughly show how the area of the proposed Toondah Harbour development will take a sizeable chunk out of a recognised Koala habitat corridor.

 

Ecologist criticises Pacific Highway koala plan,
finds flaws in estimated impact on animals

from the title article by Joanne Shoebridge -
Quote from Dr Stephen Phillips, ( internationally acknowledged authority on the ecology, conservation and management of koalas ) -
"This is one of those triple whammy scenarios where everything that we know is wrong about the way development proceeds in the context of koala conservation."

Build it and they will come ...(para.)

Here's another quote from the title article -
Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins said the RMS was offsetting the 17 hectares it needed to clear for the road with 130 hectares of re-vegetated farmland.
"We're not saying it's going to happen instantaneously; what we've tried to build into the model is that these trees will grow over time and then the koalas will use those trees," he said.
"Now the planting of these trees is also focused on where our new connectivity structures [are] because we've taken them to another level that we've not done on the Pacific Highway."
"In addition, a revegetation strategy will be developed to determine areas for replanting before building starts, as well as provide details of the revegetation required for each area to connect habitat.
We will plant 130 hectares of koala food trees on Roads and Maritime, owned land near the new highway corridor, with at least 50 per cent to be planted before major work starts and the remainder after building work finishes."

There's another aspect which is conveniently overlooked, firstly, koalas are sensitive creatures and react badly to disturbance, also whilst koalas feed on various varieties of eucalypts they require a more complete habitat which MUST contain a number of their favourite trees, not all of which are necessarily eucalypts.

Calls for route alignment ignored ...

Dr Phillips said a minor deviation to the route would dramatically reduce the likely impact on both Blackwall Range koala colonies.
"In the report I sent to the Federal Government, I gave them one example of a re-tweaking of the alignment in the existing area which would avoid those two population cells and very demonstrably result in a zero impact on the population."
"But what we're looking at is an alignment that has not moved one centimetre."
"Despite all the information that is now available, there's been no attempt to even present alternative alignments that could accommodate the road and the koala population at the same time."

This is ohhhhh so typical of modern methods... your construction project runs head on into ( or you rightly expect it to ) a storm of objections.
To counter the objections you engage a number of experts to research and report on the environmental consequences.
If the report looks like having a significant impact on your project you ignore it and start publishing cost / benefit analyses and your own take on the impact your project will have on local flora and fauna ( not to mention any socio-economic effects ) which was probably nutted out by a group of engineers ( god help us ).
Engage another expert or team if necessary to refute the initial findings based on ( your intentionally ) incomplete assessment, this is known colloquially as a snow job.
If all else fails you propose a massive environmental offset to compensate for riding rough-shod over land destroying everything in your path.

Quote from the Queensland Dept. of Environment, land and water - "An environmental offset may be required as a condition of approval where—following consideration of avoidance and mitigation measures—the activity is likely to result in a significant residual impact on prescribed environmental matters."

Other states' environment departments would ( I'm sure ) have similar provisions.
Here in sunny Queensland you have another avenue of escape ...
If you can convince the Coordinator-General to declare your development a 'coordinated project' potentially requiring only an IAR instead of a full-blown EIS you can then proceed without involving the federal environment minister.
This is a simplification I admit, but not much of a one

The article referred to above is Copyright © 2016 ABC

pdfBallina Koala Plan update

 

This is a quote from the above document -
"The Woolgoolga to Ballina PVA requires substantial baseline data inputs on the local koala demographics. Roads and Maritime has engaged a team of experienced scientific consultants including EcoSure and BioLink (Dr Steve Phillips) to collect data for ecologist Dr Rod Kavanagh (Niche Environment and Heritage) to carry out the PVA. Dr Phillips and his team of experts are currently collecting data to feed into the PVA. Koalas in and around section 10 are being analysed in order to collect demographic and genetic data."

... and thanks to the article by Joanne Shoebridge above we know what happened to Dr. Phillips' team's data !