Koalas only clinging on
  Loss of habitat through urban development threatens the future of koalas, and governments don't seem to care, ROSSLYN BEEBY reports.In the past five years, more than 25,000 koalas have died in Queensland. Break down that figure with a series of divisions, and that's a mortality rate of 5000 a year, just over 400 a month and more than 100 animals a week.

Scientists studying these iconic Australian marsupials despairingly refer to a "koala conservation crisis".

Many are critical of the lack of action by state and federal governments to fast-track reforms to protect koala habitat from destruction by urban development - particularly in coastal NSW and Queensland.

Australian Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart has read veterinary post-mortem reports on 700 recent koala deaths in south-east Queensland.

The picture that emerges is one of "shocking neglect and dangerous complacency about the future survival of such a cultural icon", she says. Most of the koalas in those reports starved to death. That was certainly the case in Redland Shire, where they are clearing trees and hammering through cheap housing developments. Out of those 700 deaths, there were only 20 due to injuries from dog attacks. That shows community education is working. "But state and federal government conservation laws are failing the koala."

Running to only 15 pages (12 pages, if you subtract title and content pages and the final list of acknowledgments), the Federal Government's "National Koala Conservation Strategy" is a surprisingly slim document given the range of threats to the species. This grim litany includes climate change, loss of habitat and food trees, road kill, dog attacks, illegal shooting and a gamut of diseases that cause sterility, cancer, blindness and the collapse of the immune system.

Recent research has shown climate change is altering the chemistry of eucalypts, stripping the nutrients koalas rely on and increasing the level of toxins.

Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Management at Central Queensland University, Dr Alistair Melzer, says drought and heat can also take a deadly toll. "Koalas live in a narrow metabolic balance between keeping cool, finding enough water in their diet and suffering from heat exhaustion.

They use habitat in a complex way, and they choose particular trees as shade trees, to keep cool. Combine the loss of these shade trees with a decline in the suitability of food trees, and the koala is in real strife. The issue of koala habitat is such a big area of research and we've barely scratched the surface." Koalas in coastal NSW have been diagnosed with an infectious fungal disease of the nasal cavity, called cryptococcosis. Its causes are not yet known, but could be linked to changes in temperature and humidity that favour the spread of this fatal infection.

Other disease threats include Chlamydia, a pathogen that causes infertility and blindness in koalas, and an AIDS-like virus which weakens the immune system. Known as koala retrovirus, it's been linked to 80 per cent of koala deaths in Queensland zoos, causing leukaemia, lymphoma, malignant tumours and immune deficiency disorders. Australian Wildlife Hospital research director Jon Hanger genetically sequenced the retrovirus in 1999, and has warned it could wipe out koalas in south-east Queensland within 15 years.  "We're seeing a 100per cent infection rate in the populations we're studying. On those figures, it should be considered a disease epidemic." But state and federal governments have failed to understand the severity and impact of this fatal virus and are relying on "antiquated legislation" to conserve Australia's koalas, he says. "The National Koala Conservation Strategy is basically just a list of management objectives. It doesn't address the science of conservation such as genetics or ecology, or the welfare issues relating to loss of habitat or rehabilitation of injured animals." So it should be good news that the strategy, which was written in 1998, is currently being reviewed.  The Federal Government has awarded a $64,000 contract to the Australian office of global development consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff to "undertake an evaluation of the strategy".

According to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website, the aim of this "initial evaluation" is not to rewrite the strategy but to "inform" further discussion by a ministerial council taskforce.  Deborah Tabart has raised the question of whether it's appropriate to have a commercial company - whose website describes them as "a leader in the development and operation of infrastructure" – gathering information to inform a national conservation strategy for an icon species threatened by loss of habitat from urban development.

"I would have thought there is some possibility of conflict of interest. This is a major developer that has been involved in large-scale infrastructure programs across Australia, some of which involved state governments, " she says. A departmental spokeswoman said the company was chosen "because they have the expertise to pull together a vast amount of information in a short time". Asked why the Federal Government didn't appoint a group of eminent scientists to oversee this stage of the review, the spokeswoman replied, "Such a group would have been welcome to tender for the job but they didn't."

Rolf Schlagloth, a conservation biologist who works as a community liaison officer with the Australian Koala Foundation, has achieved a rare success in protecting koala habitat from development. A former economist from Germany, he has spent the past six years developing a koala management plan with the city of Ballarat in central Victoria. Ballarat is now the first council in Australia to adopt a koala management plan, mapping and analysing 2500 areas of native vegetation in the region.  "We now know what we have to work with, and what we have to protect. We know where the houses shouldn't go, if we want to keep our koalas," he says.  Local, state and federal governments need to work together to develop tax incentives and laws to ensure koala habitat is protected from urban development. Major forest  revegetation campaigns are also needed to restore habitat.  "We are already at a stage where koalas are disappearing and local extinctions are occurring because of continuing loss of habitat, stress and disease. It's a red alert situation but governments aren't getting the message," he says. STARVING: Koalas in Queensland are dying at the rate of 100 a week. Many are starving to death.

38707538 Brief: CQLDU Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licensed copy Canberra Times Saturday 12/7/2008 Page: 5 Section: Saturday Forum Region: Canberra Circulation: 63,115 Type: Capital City Daily Size: 733.45 sq.cms. Published: MTWTFSPage 2 of 2

From Alistair Melzer


   Island may offer hope for koalas

Could St Bees hold the key for koala survival? Friday Forum will hear about the Earthwatch Koala Research Project on St Bees Island, situated 30km from Mackay. Cheryl Bean will be the guest speaker on Friday, July 11 at 11.15am. She is passionate about wildlife, especially koalas.

Cheryl was delighted to be selected as one of only four winners in Australia of a Golden Glow vitamin competition. The eco-friendly prize was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to participate as a volunteer in this breakthrough study

Each year four different Earthwatch teams examine population dynamics, eco-physiology, social behaviour and genetics of this isolated group of healthy koalas, living in an island ecosystem.

Being a fit member of NPA Cooloola Bushwalkers group gave Cheryl an edge in coping with the demanding conditions.

This project was not for the faint-hearted. It involved climbing, camping and carrying heavy backpack and equipment for up to nine hours a day, hiking 10km per day on hilly, steep terrain, with no vehicular access and only basic amenities.

However, Cheryl's delight in seeing and working so closely with the St Bees Island koalas in the wild, being in such magnificent scenery and knowing the team was contributing to the long-term protection of koalas through research made the challenges worthwhile.

According to Central Queensland University (CQU)'s Koala Research Centre principal research officer Dr Alistair Melzer: "The problem is that there is no problem!" His research project seeks to discover why this group, introduced to St Bees Island in the 1930s, is  doing so well when other translocated groups in South Australia and Victoria are suffering from explosive population growth, disease and over-exploitation of island resources.

Could St Bees Island koalas hold the key for future relocation of koala populations, and for better understanding of what koala populations need to survive?

Cheryl will explain how her group, under the leadership of Dr Bill Ellis from CQU and Conservation of Endangered Species of the San Diego's Zoological Society, was investigating why these koalas seem to show no genetic tendencies for hip dysplasia or genetic diseases, when those bred in captivity do.

She will discuss how koalas were tracked, caught and blood samples taken before releasing them back into the wild. If they were not already wearing collar radios, they would be fitted and their movements recorded via GPS.

Data is recorded and fed back through the various partnering organisations which include Department of Heritage and Koala Venture.

The latter studies koalas in mining town conditions in Central Australia and cross links the different data achieved particularly relating to food digestion, diet, water absorption and filtering. Studies undertaken in Noosa by the Koala

Foundation in partnership with local groups and qualified personnel, including vet, Jane Powell, found that koalas were most at risk from disease, cars, dogs, fences, fire, land clearing, vandalism and other threats.

For those who want to help Noosa koalas, they can support the Harrold Trust, managed by the Koala Conservation Foundation, set up in honour of Harrold, the large koala that was tragically was killed by a dog.

The koala was named after Dr Arthur Harrold, the environment pioneer who did so much to save Noosa's environment to be enjoyed by all.

Contact the centre to find out more about the Friday Forum to be held on July 11. The general environment forum begins at 10.30am and guest speaker Cheryl Bean takes to the stage at 11.15am. 38505742

Cheryl Bean enjoyed assisting with the koala research project.

Brief: CQLDU Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licensed copy Noosa News Tuesday 8/7/2008 Page: 10 Section: General News Region: Noosa QLD Circulation: 22,023 Type: Regional Size: 328.47 sq.cms. Published: -T--F-- Page 1 of 2 Ref:

From Alistair Melzer





Forum to Discuss koalas

EARTHWATCH koala research project on St Bees Island, is being discussed at today's forum at the Environment Centre, Wallace Park, Noosaville.

Guest speaker from the project Cheryl Bean will discuss her experiences and the outcomes from her `once in a lifetime' opportunity to participate as a volunteer in this study which is being led by Dr Alistair Melzer the University of Central Queensland and Dr Bill Ellis from the Conservation of Endangered Species at San Diego's Zoological Society. They are collecting data to provide scientific understanding of the factors needed to sustain a healthy koala population.

Ms Bean's talk begins at 11.15am. The session is free and open to everyone.

If you would like to make a morning of it, you are welcome to join in the interpretive birding walk around Wallace Park at 8.30am.

Morning tea is available at the Environment Centre at 10am.

A general environmental forum discussion will take place from 10.30am.

Inquiries 5474 2486.

From Alistair Melzer


Trip to Collinsville



With Shirley finding she was committed elsewhere it left only Alistair and myself heading off to Collinsville on Friday 30th. with the prospect of a wet weekend. We were to look at the vegetation and habitat, collect scats plus find koalas to determine their diet.

We arrived about 5 pm. The property that we were to be working on was just outside Collinsville and we called in on our way into town to notify the owners that we would be there the next day.

Collinsville is surrounded by lovely hills, textured with rocks and remnant rainforest and ochre grassed lower slopes. I wished I had brought my paints.

On Saturday we started our day early and were only just on the property when we spotted the first koala, and thought this was going to be a good day. However, as we walked up and down hills and creek banks collecting lots of droppings, observing all the scratch marked trees, we were not to see another koala all day until we were heading back to the car at the end of the day, when we saw a koala, high up in a large ironbark tree.

The rain threatened all day but held off. Long coal trains about 5 or 6 loaded from Collinsville mine and the same number empty on the return trip came

roaring through the site. It sounded like an invasion of helicopters coming over the hill.

The Melaleuca trees along the creek were in heavy flower, and between trains we enjoyed the calls of so many birds, the friar birds were particularly vocal.

On day two the weather looked even more threatening but again no rain. We crossed the creek and wandered the foothills finding evidence of koalas in several areas, but no sightings all morning. Once again I would have liked to have pulled out my paints.

Lunch was by the creek with the heavy smell of blossom and a chorus of birds. Later in the day we found two more koalas. We took many photos of the hills, flowers, birds etc.

We left early Monday getting back to Rockhampton mid afternoon. It was a very enjoyable weekend and next visit I will take paints.

Carmen Drake


Meetings in 2008

At the meetings held this year the main discussion has been about the field trips.  Dates for these trips:

Thompson River 29 August – 12 September.

Springsure 25 – 30 September


Koala dubbed Lucky Grills after car face-off


A koala has cheated death after being hit by a car traveling at 100 kilometers an hour and dragged for 12 kilometers with his head stuck through the car's front grill.

The three-year-old male koala was hit by the car on Daybook Road, north of Brisbane.

But the driver was not aware of the unlucky hitchhiker until she stopped 12 kilometers down the road at the Petrie train station.

Amazingly, the koala was not badly hurt despite being found dangling from the front of the car with its head and arm wedged through the vehicle's grill.

Staff at the Australian Wildlife Hospital on the Sunshine Coast have dubbed the koala Ely 'Lucky' Grills.

Manager Gail Gipp is still shaking her head in disbelief. Gail says it was a miraculous escape "He was very flat and unresponsive for a couple of hours, but a bit of TLC and some feed and some fluids and a bit of pain relief because obviously he would have had a headache, he was up and eating and doing really well," she said.

From ABC


Two True Koala Volunteers


(Even on holidays, they looked for Koalas!)

Like learning to fly, koalas seem to get into your blood too.  Wherever we were we kept an eye out and searched the trees for a glimpse of a koala in the wild.  The first we saw were on Philip Island.  We stopped at Cowes Caravan Park and spent 3 days looking at the Island.

Coming from Wilson Promontory the day before it is really only a short drive to Phillip Island and with so much to see and do we were pressed for time.  But we visited the Phillip Island Koala Conservation Centre on 19 May.

  Different from a zoo the Conservation Center is set out more on an open plan where the Koalas are only restricted in what trees they can eat or climb and they can't get out of the reserve area which has a green non climbable wall all the way around.  The koalas are free to do what they want to do and we spotted half a dozen in the tops of trees and a few I was able to capture on the camera.    
      I gave the Park Ranger my card with the website and told him that there were plenty of good things to look at on our site.  
    The next Koalas we saw were on the road into Cape Otway Lighthouse on the 25th May.  High up in the trees and looking like little balls of fur, but my camera (Canon S3IS) is capable of pulling them in much closer.  Just from observation I thought that the Phillip Island and the Cape Otway Koalas look different.  All very healthy and plenty of lovely green trees to eat, these two areas of Victoria are definitely not in drought.  

And the web link to our holiday blog is TRIP08

Nick Quigley OAM





Former coalmine a potential koala habitat

Researchers believe an entire Central Queensland coal mine could successfully be restored to a koala habitat once it closes after 2015.

The University of Queensland  and Rio Tinto Coal Australia say their program Koala Venture has discovered the first koala to make its home on former coal mining land in the twenty years since the study began.

He says the discovery provides proof that former open cut coal mines can be successfully rehabilitated for native wildlife and will allow Rio Tinto to adjust land clearing practices to encourage koalas to move ahead of the work and eventually return to the area.

Last year Blair Athol Mine rehabilitated 64 hectares of former mining land.


From Alistair

How do outside web users find our site


It is interesting to look at some of the statistics of visitors to our koala site.  By just typing in “I.G.A. Glenmore Rockhampton” will bring up The Central Queensland Koala Volunteer Group has been established to support efforts to conserve koalas and other ... Available at IGA Glenmore in tins and CQKV

And when searching for information on volunteering in  Biloela the search engine will give you this site Biloela Volunteers  and top of the list is CQKV

The next interesting one is from a site in France and they have used Google Translate while looking up “koalas Queensland” The result gave them 542,000 sites of which our site was 9th on the list.

The most used key words have been Rockhampton, IGA, Glenmore, Koala, Queensland

The world is interested to look at our koalas and here is a list of countries that have visited our site - Norway, Taiwan, Sweden, Qatar, Belgium, Singapore, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Philippines, Spain, China, India, Japan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong S.A.R, Israel, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Australia

81% of users are coming to our site using Explorer Ver 6 or 7 and Windows XP. And approx 9% are using Windows Vista and Mozilla Firefox and there is still a small percentage using Windows 98 and Netscape

All the best from your Webmaster

Photos on the left, top a Phillip Island Koala, middle a large model of a koala outside a Phillip Island Motel and bottom a koala in the top of a tree