Margaret Russell, a supervisor at the Friends of the Koala Care Centre in Lismore, treats Benny, a five-year-old koala found last week in Skyline Road, Goonellabah, suffering from the eye disease, conjunctivitis. His prognosis is not good.
Margaret Russell, a supervisor at the Friends of the Koala Care Centre in Lismore, treats Benny, a five-year-old koala found last week in Skyline Road, Goonellabah, suffering from the eye disease, conjunctivitis. His prognosis is not good. Jacklyn Wagner

Sick and dying koalas pay price for Govt inaction

OUR koalas are sicker than we think.

Lismore-based Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said that 60 per cent of the koalas that reached the caring hands of the organisation's volunteers don't just suffer chlamydia, but a range of diseases, including leukaemia, various other cancers and koala retrovirus.

“We believe the high incidents of disease and the variety of diseases has its roots in stress related to the koalas' loss of habitat,” she said.

In a letter to the NSW Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Carmel Tebbutt, Ms Vass congratulates her on the release of the NSW Koala Recovery Plan at the beginning of December last year.

“The plan's strength lies in providing a framework for localised koala recovery based on involvement by all stakeholders,” she said.

“Its weaknesses are that as yet there is little detail about how the plan will roll out and it is clearly under-funded.”

The $1.23 million five-year plan aims to co-ordinate koala management across the State and help communities deal with risks to their local koala populations.

However, Ms Vass said the announcement was a 'furphy'.

“Of the $1.23 million, $751,000 is in-kind and of that $300,000 has already been spent,” she said.

In her letter to Mrs Tebbutt, Ms Vass said that from July, 2007, to June, 2008, Friends of the Koala recorded 549 koalas across the Northern Rivers.

She said her organisation received 277 koalas into care during that time, with only 45 able to be released back into the wild.

Ms Vass said NSW councils were preparing local environmental plans and needed funding incentives to undertake comprehensive koala plans of management.

“Without such funding incentives being provided, councils are unlikely to progress towards shirewide comprehensive plans due to other financial priorities,” she said.

“Therefore, the opportunity for strategic, regional conservation outcomes to identify koala habitat, threats and management actions at the local scale will be lost.

“It is five years since the plan was exhibited for comment, so it is vital that a regional focus is taken up and developed.”

Friends doing good deeds
  • Friends of the Koala was established in 1986 and is a not-for-profit organisation located in Rifle Range Road, Lismore.
  • Volunteers operate a 24-hour rescue service for sick, injured and orphaned koalas.

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