Sky News Australia – Sunday, 5 January 2020
Owner of Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park Sam Mitchell says “for every koala we are seeing alive, there are 100 dead”.
“Kangaroo Island is well known for our Koala population, which is considered to be Australia’s only disease-free population of koalas with well over 50 to 60,000,” Mr Mitchell told Sky News.
“Half of their prime habitat has been wiped out”.
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Koalas: 2000 feared dead in NSW fires – RCB
Heather McNab National DECEMBER 9 2019 – 11:05AM
More than 2000 koalas may have died in NSW bushfires.
Fires burning around NSW have razed koala habitats so extensively “we will probably never find the bodies”, an ecologist has told a parliamentary inquiry.
The NSW upper house inquiry on Monday held an urgent hearing into the state’s koala population and habitat after this season’s “unprecedented” bushfires destroyed millions of hectares of forest.
Some 90 fires continue to burn across the state, half of which uncontained.
Nature Conservation Council ecologist Mark Graham on Monday told the inquiry koalas in most instances “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away” from fast-moving crown fires.
“The fires have burnt so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies,” Mr Graham said.
The crown fires which have torn through broad expanses of NSW north-coast forest, a known biodiversity hotspot, were unprecedented.
“We’ve lost such a massive swathe of known koala habitat that I think we can say without any doubt there will be ongoing declines in koala populations from this point forward,” Mr Graham said.
North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh will later on Monday say more than 2000 koalas may have died in the fires, with up to one third of koala habitat on the state’s north coast lost.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital president Sue Ashton in October estimated at least 350 koalas would have died in a bushfire in Crestwood, on the state’s mid-north coast, based on a predicted 60 per cent mortality rate.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, chair of the inquiry, on Sunday said the loss of koalas in NSW should be a catalyst for stronger conservation efforts.
“Hearing that we have lost up to a third of koala habitat and more than 2000 koalas on the north coast is utterly devastating and should be a wake-up call for this government,” Ms Faehrmann said in a statement.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s clinical director Cheyne Flanagan and indigenous fire practitioners are also due to give evidence, as well as representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
Australian Associated Press
KAG Note: There can be no doubt that the Palaszczuk Government’s landmark plan to protect koalas will produce the same outcome for Queensland’s koalas if they are relocated to bushland areas.