Animal Justice Party Policy on the Koala
Koalas are an Australian flagship species that bring $1.1 billion in tourism1. The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates there are between 43,000 and 80,000 koalas remaining in the wild2 and most in fragmented colonies – and as such it is critical to give them maximum protection. As of 2010 koala populations have declined nationally by 29% (up to 43% in Qld) 3.
The AJP Position
The AJP will offer a fresh approach to animals by designing policies and regulations that respect koalas for their intrinsic worth and help provide and maintain their basic needs, instead of seeing them as being in the way of developments and therefore less important, especially given their current vulnerable status in Queensland, NSW and ACT. 4
AJP Policy Objectives
The AJP is seriously concerned about the dire straits of koalas in Australia and the ongoing threats to their survival due to habitat loss, road kill, dogs and stress-related diseases and will:-
* immediately declare koalas as nationally endangered, (not just vulnerable in NSW, QLD and ACT).
* define better estimates of koala populations and their locations, since current estimates range from 10,000 18 to 200,000 5.
* determine koala road kill hotspots and incorporate overpasses/underpasses and exclusion fences.
* ban all new developments on land inhabited by koala colonies – reclaim such land by purchasing it back and turning into a wildlife refuge.
* place an immediate ban on logging in koala forests6. Currently Regional Forestry Agreements bypass Commonwealth protection.
* increase maximum penalties for environmental offences committed in the course of carrying out illegal forestry operations.
* abolish large public events such as car rallies and festivals in state and national forests where wildlife habitat will be compromised.
* ban destructive environmental practices such mining and military testing in areas that have sensitive wildlife habitat.
* prioritise wildlife corridors to connect fragmented colonies of koalas, after defining where these corridors should be.
* educate the public about the ecosystem services koalas render7. For example, by virtue of eating gum tree leaves koala activity can ameliorate the impact of forest fire. We should therefore work to build koala populations to 1 million, one tenth of what they were estimated to be before the early settlers arrived.
* provide tax breaks to farmers who offer 10% of their land as a wildlife corridor in areas where there needs to be corridors.
* replace the use of 1080 poison8 to kill feral dogs with a humane alternative such as cage trapping and shooting by farmers.
* increase the policing of national parks to ensure that no illegal activities are taking place with regard to wildlife.
* increase penalties for wildlife cruelty tenfold including jail time up to 10 years.
* encourage increased growth in and support for wildlife-based eco-tourism 9 ventures to enable more people to view koalas in the wild without disturbing them. Strict protocols need to be established so that these businesses do not disturb koalas.
* help promote homestay ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation10 on farm properties where tourists can view koalas or other native animals. This, along with wildlife-based eco-tourism, will help boost our tourism industry higher than $35 billlion.
* explore human housing options that do not require more habitat to be cleared but instead use existing cleared land in a sustainable way to build high rise and/or underground dwellings11.
AJP Policy Goals
The Animal Justice Party will:-
RESEARCH KOALA LOCATION, POPULATIONS, DISEASES
* work with the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the Australian Koala Foundation or other reputable and independent non-government organisations to clearly understand koala populations nation-wide, recognising hotspots where koalas are at risk.
* irrespective of the outcome of the above research, AJP will declare koalas as nationally endangered in order to give them maximum protection from increasing threats.
* require all councils to collect data on koala road kill to determine road kill hotspots. Once this information is acquired, overpasses and/or overpasses with exclusion fences will be funded to enable koalas to safely cross roads 15 .
* work to find better solutions to stress-related chlamydia, KoRV (koala retrovirus) and conjunctivitis 12 which kills and blinds a great percentage of koalas.
* AJP will support measures that address the fragmentation of koala colonies which cause genetic weakness leading to early demise as koalas lose their ability to fight disease or adapt to environmental changes.
* landholders will be given incentives to relinquish up 10% of their properties if they contain important wildlife corridors. Incentives will also be given to fund the planting of koala trees and erection of wildlife-friendly fences (i.e. no barbed wire) so that no dogs can enter. Connected habitat will benefit not just koalas but many other native plants and animals as well.
* national parks need to be connected to other habitat. Male animals are most commonly killed by motor vehicles due to their need to disburse and find other populations. For koalas to survive in the long term fragmented populations urgently need habitat restored and corridors formed.
* ban the use of barbed wire and electrified fencing in rural residential areas where they are a hazard to koalas, flying foxes, bats, birds, kangaroos, gliders, possums, wallabies and so on.
* ban large public events on core koala habitat or wildlife corridors.
KOALA FRIENDLY ROADS
* AJP is committed to the implementation of koala-friendly design for all new main road construction and upgrades, including the retrofitting of koala crossings at mortality hotspots on existing main roads. AJP supports the development of national guidelines to ensure that all new roads and upgrades in or adjacent to koala habitat are koala-friendly.
* koalas injured in motor vehicle accidents at a speed of 60 km/h or less have a greater chance of recovery for release in the wild.13 Therefore such speed limits (including speed cameras and signage) should be imposed on all roads known to have koalas crossing.
FERAL DOG POPULATIONS
* dogs are mortal enemies of koalas. Wild dogs kill more koalas than we see as they are in the bush. Feral dogs hunt in packs and are breeding out of control and need to be controlled.
* AJP will support the mapping of areas where feral dogs are a problem and with initiatives to control feral dogs using humane methods.
* AJP supports the banning of aerial and ground baiting of 1080 which has a devastating impact on non-target native species like birds, goannas, native bush rats and endangered spot-tailed quoll and causes secondary poisoning of owls and birds of prey – besides being horrifically cruel to the animal unfortunate enough to consume the bait 8 .
AJP will support laws and regulations to protect koalas from domesticated dogs. These might include:-
* compulsory ‘denning’ of dogs at night in areas of known koala habitat.
* dog and cat enclosures for all residences.
* pet-free housing developments in key koala habitat.
* heavily penalties for owners of dogs that kill native animals.
REBUILD KOALA POPULATIONS TO 1 MILLION
* It is estimated that koala populations prior to white colonisation were more than 10 million. 14 Such numbers would considerably reduce bushfire risk by eating over 2 million tonnes of highly inflammable gum tree leaves per year.15 Therefore, the more koalas there are, the less the possibility of these kind of fires. An effort must be made to establish pre-early settlers koala populations. This can be done by aiming for 10% of pre – colonial estimates i.e. 1 million koalas.
* Support will be given for supplementary breeding programs guided by geneticists to re-establish koala gene pools, restore koala habitat and create critically important wildlife corridors to reconnect fragmented koala populations.
EDUCATE THE PUBLIC
* produce an educational booklet to inform the public, students and bureaucrats about the ecosystem services that koalas render 7.
* the public also need to be educated about the inter-relational connectivity of species15. The current wildlife protection system does not provide for the many mutually beneficial relationships that exist in the natural world.
HIGHER STANDARDS FOR DEVELOPERS
* all developments need to be sustainable i.e. they cannot threaten species’ survival.
* ban relocation of koalas as relocation of koalas does not work 16.
* new housing developments must have water saving incentives (rainwater tanks/stormwater harvesting/dual reticulation) 17 incorporated into their design to obviate the need for dams being constructed elsewhere in areas where native species (including koala habitat or corridors) may exist.
* speed limits, speed cameras and speed bumps must be placed on all roads within existing developments where koalas are known to cross and in core koala habitat, unless there are underpasses/overpasses with exclusion fencing incorporated into the roads.
If actions are not taken urgently by the Australian government to stem the tide of extinctions, we will be in a state of irreversible extinction crises. Already Australia has the unenviable record of having the most mammal extinctions, having driven 38% of all mammals extinct since colonial days18. In the case of koalas we have driven 99.5% of koalas extinct in the last 230 years – a shameful and shocking fact. No wonder most Australians have not seen a koala in the wild.
Clearly it is time to act strongly and to engage Australian citizens by educating them of the importance of protecting our native koalas.
SUPPORT WILDLIFE CARERS
* train wildlife caring groups in the best practices of koala care.
* review the policies for licensing, and the operational practices of, wildlife caring and rehabilitation groups and individuals
* reimburse koala carers for the cost of feed, medical supplies and equipment to rehabilitate koalas. These costs are currently borne by individual carers, or may be partially subsidised by wildlife caring groups.
* fund clinics staffed by trained wildlife veterinarians and nurses, especially in areas in which koalas are found, so that wildlife takes priority over domestic cats and dogs.
KOALA HABITAT PROTECTION
* ban the felling of well established, especially older koala trees, no exceptions unless the tree is irreversibly sick or injured.
* support programs that work with landowners to obtain Nature Conservation Trust covenants 19 on their land and for those covenants to include the protection of koalas, the planting of koala food trees and the strict control of domestic dogs so they are not running freely on the property but restrained.
* ban all new developments on land with known koala populations or known koala corridors.
- http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2001/publications/fact-sheets/biodiversity.html – ($1.1 billion in tourism)
- https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/koala-endangered-or-not – (AKF estimates
- http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=85104 (Decline of koala populations)
- http://www.thenewground.com.au/blog/epbc-act-koala-listing – (Vulnerable status)
- http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/197-sensitivity-analysis.pdf (>200,000)
- http://www.begadistrictnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/koalas-left-vulnerable/2544525.aspx – (Logging in state/national forests)
- http://candobetter.net/node/2864 – (Ecosystem services of koalas)
- http://www.wlpa.org/1080_poison.htm – (1080 poison)
- http://wildlifetourism.org.au/ – (wildlife-based ecotourism )
- http://www.lillydale.com.au/aboutus.php (koala farm stay ecotourism)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEqT46LSRN0 (underground housing)
- http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Community-and-environment/Environmental-management/Land/Fauna-management/Koala-retrofit-project.aspx – (overpasses/underpasses/exclusion fences)
- http://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/our-environment/Documents/KPOM_b.pdf – p.56 (60 km/h better chance of recover\
- http://johnrobertson.alpnsw.prod.communityengine.com:6050/media-2/media/message-to-robyn-parker-–-logging-does-not-protect/ – (10 million koalas before white settlers)
- http://candobetter.net/node/2864 – (10m would eat 2m tonnes gum leaves p.y. + inter-relational connectivity)
- http://www.koala.wdhq.com.au/our-work/victorias-stance-koala-relocation – (koala relocation problems)
- http://www.conservationsa.org.au/water-in-a-changing-climate/404.html – water-saving incentives
- http://www.smh.com.au/news/specials/environment/buildling-a-second-ark/2008/02/22/1203467390101.html – worst record – 38% mammals extinct
- http://nct.org.au/ – (Nature Conservation Trust Covenants)