There will be plenty of bright minds at the upcoming Koala Summit in Noosa. Experts are alarmed by the dwindling numbers of koalas in the region.
There will be plenty of bright minds at the upcoming Koala Summit in Noosa. Experts are alarmed by the dwindling numbers of koalas in the region. John Mccutcheon

Time ticking for our tree huggers

THIS is an extract of the address from Sunshine Coast Koala Summit key-note speaker Assoc Prof Clive McAlpine of the Koala Research Network:

We did a study in (Noosa National Park) 2003- 2006, back then the population was fairly healthy. The reports now are that its in serious trouble - the urbanisation of that Weyba area has taken out probably the most significant population in the Noosa area.

Noosa koala crusader Isobel Pert told the professor that in 1997: "we had 90 koalas and now we're lucky to have 10 or 11 koalas from Peregian to here".

The professor said the beginning of the possible end for the koalas in the coastal area from Coolum through to Noosa was when the motorway went in and all that urbanisation occurred.

"There are some good population in the Cooroy to Pomona," he said.

"The problem in the past has been that the land use - the urban planning - has over-ridden the conservation values of the landscape and that's why koalas have been losers.

"We need to have that balance, the habitat needs to be given equal weight to the urban needs of the people and that means designing our urban areas, designing our suburbs and our roads and making sure we're not destroying habitat.

"One of the critical things we found is the loss of habitat is the main thing that drives the Noosa koala population (decline).

"In some area around Cooroy-Pomona going down towards Cootharaba, there's still some large blocks of forest there, but when we come down to Weyba and back of Sunshine where's there's (been) a large population of koalas, that's where the urban fragmentation is the greatest.

"So we have to look to protect the high quality habitat because that minimises the other stresses on the koala.

"Planting trees along roads can be a death trap for koalas.

"What's a good (rural) landscape for a cow and what's a good landscape for a koala is not always the same.

"It's not just protecting the habitat, you have to understand these other processes of mortality. Koalas are impacted by disease through urbanisation that happened one or two years before.

"So you get down to the old death by a thousand cuts, so we need a more strategic approach. It is a difficult road, but it's one that has to be tread. We are at a critical time in our history - it's time that we act.

"We don't have $2 billion unfortunately to invest in koala conservation in this region - some mining magnates might be able to come up with that money. Land is very expensive - we need to look at where we can get our best results."


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