I am a senior writer for Weekend Notes, a copywriter, editor, published poet and former editor of poetry magazine Fruit Salad. I have also authored children's fiction and inspirational pieces.
Published March 12th 2021
How you can help
Photo by Qld Governmenthttps://environment.des.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/211732/ seq-koala-conservation-strategy-2020-2025.pdf.
It is critical right now to help build Koala numbers. The recent bushfires throughout Australia killed 60,000 koalas, while approximately three billion animals were affected. Koalas are vulnerable to many things, for example, predators such as dogs; drought and pathogens such as chlamydiaceae bacteria and koala retrovirus. Australia's iconic koalas are unique, but becoming less prolific. What can you do to help our furry friends and habitat conservation?
Koalas & Habitats
Core koala habitats are defined as presenting the best climate, shelter, vegetation and sighting records. Clearing of core and locally refined koala habitats is prohibited within the government's priority areas, though there are some exceptions. The Queensland Government has a goal to restore and establish habitats in areas of low threat and high conservation opportunities.
One exciting development is the upcoming Online Reporting Portal app so that if you see or hear a koala you can help the restoration project's mapping model. Koalas make a range of sounds including grunts, huffs and bellows.
Koala food trees are not always appropriate at home, like this tall Grey Gum.
In the Darling Downs region, koalas have been spotted in the Lockyer Valley with more to the south, Toowoomba, Highfields, Mt Kynoch to Hampton, Scrubby Mountain, Ravensbourne, Applegum Walk at Crows Nest, Redwood Park, Cressbrook Dam and the Great Dividing Range and surrounds.
The Koala or phascolarctos cinereus, is an arboreal, herbivorous marsupial, native to Australia. It can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They can grow up to 85 centimetres and weigh up to 15 kilograms. Their colour ranges from silver-grey to chocolate-brown. The northern subspecies are usually smaller than their southern cousins.
Eucalyptus leaves are the koalas' main diet. In times past, they lived in rainforests which provided a more varied diet. As Australia became drier, micro-evolution shifted koalas' palates forward and altered the formation of their teeth, to adapt to their more specialised diets. Koala food trees include eucalypts and non-eucalypts. The koala diet includes grey gum, red gum, blue gum, tallowwood, narrow-leaved ironbark, acacia (wattles), corymbia, allocasuarina, callitris, leptospermum, blood woods, callistemon and melaleuca.
Apart from eucalypts, Koalas can eat acacia (wattles) and other non-eucalypts.
Koalas sleep up to twenty hours per day. Generally, they 'hang out' solo or the mothers have babies on their backs. Their young are birthed underdeveloped, then enter the mother's pouch. The young are called 'joeys'. They suckle in the pouch and are weaned after about one year.
Indigenous Australians depicted koalas in cave art as an animal that was hunted and eaten. The first European to see a koala was in 1798, with artwork being produced by naturalist George Perry in 1810. The British became informed about koalas in the 19th century. In the century following, koalas were hunted for their fur with mass cullings in Queensland. Following public outcry, sanctuaries were established and numbers were supplemented with koalas from further south.
Koalas live from 13 to 18 years in the wild. Males tend to die younger than females. Some koalas die of starvation as their teeth wear down and they are unable to feed. Dingoes and pythons will also prey on koalas. Sometimes, young koalas are taken by birds of prey.
A koala was heard adjacent to Spring Bluff in March 2021, to the right in this picture.
Koalas are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
If you see or hear a koala in Queensland, report the sighting to the Koala Action Group Qld Inc. You can also contact 07 3833 4031 to report injured koalas. The Koala Action Group is based in Redland Shire.
Toowoomba Koala & Wildlife Rescue
Toowoomba Koala and Wildlife Rescue are a group of experienced volunteers who have been helping to save koalas since 2006. With specialists who rescue koalas, they can usually handle a situation alone, but sometimes call on the RSPCA or other rescuers. Volunteers are people like vets or those who work with wildlife transport or wildlife hospitals. This is a self-funded and dedicated organisation whose members include licenced carers for specialist species rescues.
Once a koala is rescued, they receive rehabilitation. Animals recuperate at the Koala Rehabilitation Sanctuary, a privately owned operation, not open to the public. Areas reached are Toowoomba, Highfields, Lockyer Valley, Meringandan, Cabarlah, Oakey, Crows Nest and regional areas. Other wildlife receiving assistance include bettongs, lizards, macropods, possums, birds and bandicoots.
Check the website for a comprehensive list of ways you can donate. People with a passion for wildlife, Toowoomba Koala & Wildlife Rescue encourage landowners to protect native plants and wildlife.
If you spot an injured or distressed koala in the Darling Downs region, call Toowoomba Koala and Wildlife Rescue on 0491 688 503. For other injured wildlife contact 1300 264 625.
Injured koalas go from hospital to rehab then back to the bush.
Adopt a Koala
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are hoping to double koala numbers along Australia's east coast by 2050 in their Koalas Forever program. By making a donation to WWF Adopt a Koala, you can help wildlife carers and medical facilities to provide the best care for injured koalas.
On my wild koala-spotting excursion, this was as close to actually seeing one as I got.
More Do's and Don't's
Adorable and cuddly though they are, handling koalas can make them sick or even die. Contact with koalas should be left to the professionals.
Thirsty koalas can die from drinking from water bottles, as the water can go into their lungs. Instead, place water in something they can lap from.
If you see a sleeping koala, don't wake them.
If you're driving in the country, heed road signs indicating koalas and other wildlife.