A koala summit – reasons why it might be a good idea

As part of its environment platform, and in addition to a north coast koala national park, the NSW Labor opposition has proposed holding a koala summit. For its part the Liberal government have promised another $100 million for its ‘Save our Species’ program, ‘to protect all 970 native species from pests with measures such as fencing and improved soil quality’.

While details are yet to materialize, the government argues its approach, dividing ‘animals into streams’, will remove species from the threatened species list. As the Liberals seem likely to be re-elected, of interest is the degree to which the conservation movement are prepared to condone and support the Save our Species program.

In an article titled “The great southern koala forest- connecting Kosiuszko to the coast’ the NSW National Parks Association argues for an end to logging, and places its support behind tree planting being undertaken by Local Land Services. Missing is the notion that funds provided to the LLS are unlikely to ever help koalas, and could have paid for all the remaining timber in Bermagui, Murrah, Mumbulla and Tanja State Forests.

The NPA also supports the translocation of koalas from plantations in the Strzeleckis, to create new koala populations on the south coast. This support is apparently based on the notion that ” . . . The forest landscape can provide lifelines of koala habitat connectivity between currently isolated populations. Koalas on the far south coast can link up over the escarpment to the remnant population of at least several hundred koalas 50km away on the tablelands, and onto koalas near the Shoalhaven River upstream of Nowra.”

In a sense the NPA’s position is not that much different from the Forestry Corp, believing that all forests do support koalas. Regrettably the term ‘can’ implies that once koalas are put there, there is a new ‘population’. Hence we are not talking about a single remaining population that requires both protection and habitat restoration, so logging can proceed.

Of course its difficult to know whether this outcome has been considered during the production of the NPA’s ‘strategic vision’.

Para tick dist

In that regard the translocation program has morphed into a koala breeding program, and Potoroo Palace, has received funds to create a koala breeding area. With all of this money and commitment going into other koalas, it’s a bit concerning that no-one involved seems to really understand the environment where they live. The NPA don’t mention die-back and although this isn’t surprising , given the NPWS, like FCNSW need protection to do what they want. The issue is whether the government’s understanding has progressed beyond zilch.

As the OE&H’s threatened species officer Chris ‘logging must proceed’ Allen said about die-back in his personal senate submission ‘ . . . These processes are related to human impacts on forests and the soils that sustain them, but the causes are complex and our understanding of these complexities is limited.’

It is possible that a koala summit could see some progress toward greater understanding of the complexities, but most seem to believe it is not necessary. Another thing that apparently isn’t necessary is an understanding of what happens to animals that haven’t evolved with the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus).

The map above shows the approximate distribution of the species and it’s a concern that they don’t occur in the Strzeleckis, or in the area occupied by the ‘remnant’ koala population on the tablelands. Perhaps they could wait until logging starts in actual koala habitat, at least then the only risk to the koalas evacuated from the area is starvation.


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