Without Your Help, Koalas Could Lose Habitat to Developers and Become Extinct

Care2 petitions are a great tool for residents to use when dealing with potential threats to local habitats. Residents in Byron Bay, NSW (New South Wales) in Australia went the petition route to stand up to housing developers and save koalas.

Confused koala loses home after deforestation in Australia. Photo Credit: Imgur.com

Seeing this heartbreaking viral photo (on left), it’s easy to understand why activists from the Byron Resident’s Group delivered a Care2 petition aimed at sparing approximately 240 koalas from a similar fate.

In Byron Bay, the planning department is considering approving plans so developers can construct a sprawling housing and industrial project that would wipe out koala habitats and potentially poison local marine wildlife.

The proposed development is so massive, it would increase Byron’s population by a full third. The proposal seeks to clear koala habitat within a corridor that is essential for maintaining connectivity between an isolated and fragile population of the local koalas. The predictions are that the fragmentation of the population could lead to the koala’s extinction around Byron Bay.

The Minister for Planning has taken over control of this development on the grounds that it is of “state significance” due to a claimed housing crisis, though the Byron Residents’ Group contends that such claims are based on grossly inflated data and are unsubstantiated.

Byron Residents’ Group spokesperson Cate Coorey issued this statement:

We call upon Minister Pru Goward to stand up for the survival of Byron Bay’s koalas and tourism industry by acknowledging that the claimed housing supply crisis in Byron Bay is spurious. The minister must hand decisions on how best to meet genuine housing needs back to the Byron Bay community. We are the only community in the region that has consistently been able to outperform our regional growth targets, without jeopardising either koalas or tourists.

To stop the development from moving forward, the Byron Residents’ Group members, together with animal welfare activists, came up with a creative delivery strategy to make sure the Save the Koala petition receives the attention it deserves and lands into the hands of its intended target, the NSW Planning Minister, Pru Goward.

The plan: have someone dressed in a koala suit present a hard copy to the office of local politician Don Page, with a request for him to deliver it to Goward. The end goal: prompt the Minister to halt the development and protect West Byron’s koalas.

So on October 10, 2014, animal activists carrying signs designed by artist Dailan Pugh of Byron Environmental and Conservation Organisation joined the giant koala for the petition drop, though it’s too soon to tell what comes out of that.

Here are some photos of the action:

Cate Coorey coming out of Don Page's office

Artist Dailan Pugh with giant koala

Endangering 240 koalas isn’t the only drawback if the housing development succeeds. An increase in traffic gridlock and a decrease in natural character threaten the major economic driver of the whole region: the 1.4 million visitors a year attracted to Byron Bay’s small town charm and natural beauty.

Even the mayor thinks it’s a bad idea, calling it a “monstrous addition.”

The petition explains:

The planned project cuts straight through the habitat of a population of around 240 koalas, all of whom would be put in grave danger by the construction and increased traffic. And given that the buildings will be constructed on wetlands containing soil elements that can become toxic when exposed, the water trickling from there into the sea could be lethal to fish and other marine wildlife.

According to this news report, the developers of the proposed new suburb of West Bryon are very well aware of the environmental sensitivities attached to their proposal, but they’ve argued to the state government that they can put strategies in place to manage any risks associated with the project, but there’s no mention about what those strategies are.

About the development’s potential impact on the koala population, Pugh, who has an Order of Australia (like a knighthood) for services to forest conservation, shares:

We have long recognised that our iconic koalas are in danger of extinction on the far north coast of NSW and, despite having laws in place for over 20 years to redress their decline, our governments collude to hasten it. It is well past time that meaningful and effective protections for koalas were implemented in NSW.

Australia’s State Environmental Planning Policy No. 44 (SEPP 44 aka Koala Habitat Protection) came into effect in 1995 with the aim to “encourage the proper conservation and management of areas of natural vegetation that provide habitat for koalas to ensure a permanent free-living population over their present range and reverse the current trend of koala population decline,” but Pugh claims, “19 years after the adoption of SEPP 44 it has done very little to safeguard koalas because of a lack of will to implement it.”

Pugh cautions, “With both State and Commonwealth Governments intent on slashing ‘green tape’ to facilitate development, winding back legislative protection, the future is becoming bleaker for our threatened species.”

Fun Facts About Koalas:

  • Despite what people say, koalas are not bears at all, they’re marsupials.
  • They often sleep for up to 18-20 hours each day.
  • Female koalas mature faster than males (females are fully mature by about 2 years of age and males by their third or fourth year.)
  • Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia are the only states where koalas are found naturally in the wild.
  • Even when they fight they’re cute:

Not-So-Fun Facts About Koalas:

  • Habitat loss is the greatest problem facing koalas, due to land clearing, bushfires and diseases of the eucalypts.
  • The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that as a result of the loss of their habitat, around 4,000 koalas are killed each year by dogs and cars alone.
  • Australia has one of the highest land clearing rates in the world. 80 percent of koala habitat has already disappeared.
  • Although koalas themselves are protected by law, around 80 percent of any remaining habitat occurs on privately owned land and almost none of that is protected by legislation.
  • The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates that there are likely to be less than 80,000 koalas remaining in Australia today and it could be as low as 43,000. Much of their habitat has already been lost. This makes it vitally important to save what is left.

Georgina Bible, a Care2 member from Australia who authored a similar Save the Koala petition, explains the importance of signing the petition:

It is essential that the West Byron development is stopped as it will destroy most of the habitat of the estimated 240 koalas in the vicinity. Koalas in the Byron Bay area are already fighting for survival — challenged by disease, attacks by dogs, dangers from cars and now this ill-planned development. I hope that anyone who cares for koalas is moved to sign the petition.

Artist Pugh urges people, “With threats increasing and protection declining, people need to now speak up for our koalas (and other threatened species) if they are to have a future.”

TAKE ACTION!

  • Follow Byron Residents’ Group on Facebook
  • Email or write Pru Goward, the Minister for Planning to remind her of the Coalition promise of “returning power to local communities.” Contact info: office@goward.minister.nsw.gov.au or Level 34 Governor Macquarie Tower, 1 Farrer Place, SYDNEY NSW 2000
  • Share this post to spread the word and help save koalas in Byron Bay
  • Sign the petition: Though the first 49,000+ petition signatures were delivered, it’s not too late to add your name today. Hopefully with more signatures the added pressure will help steer government to do the right thing: leave the koala’s land alone.

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find injustice in the world. Luckily neither is finding people to do something about it.

271 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H2 years ago

noted

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Katie D.
Katie D3 years ago

Please help the Koalas before it's too late!!! It would be a shame to not have any koalas on our planet!!!

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

Signed Thanks for sharing

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Signed. What an awful picture of the koala's land being descimated by humans. We have to stop ruining everything we touch.

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Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

Not enough is being done to protect the koalas left in the wild and we're in danger of loosing them altogether if something isn't done soon.

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Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

signed

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Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

signed

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sue higgins
sue higgins3 years ago

it such a sad situation that it seems not enough people really care about wildlife.....big money is their number one goal.....while.volunteers who look after these lost and injured victims get no money for their 24 hour love and care for these guys.......it seems that just a handful of people want a better world but unfortunately we have to live with the majority who don't give a shit !........maybe it should be YOU then who comes home and YOUR home has gone !

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Suzanne W.
Suzanne W3 years ago

Humans suck! Single handed taking the whole world down millions of animals at a time. If we have completely desecrated the animal population by 40% in 35 years, how much chance does the next ten years stand of losing our rhinos, elephants, lions, orangutangs, mountain gorillas, wolves, the list goes on and on...so sickening!
This is why mother nature creates Ebola epidemics and AIDS, it called population control! We need to wipe out some people, the earth can not sustain all these humanoids.

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