Uncertain future: Leon the koala has been cared for by Friends of the Koala in Lismore since being forced from his home because of work on the Alstonville bypass. He is supposed to be released at the same location, but his carers fear he will not survive in the degraded habitat.
Uncertain future: Leon the koala has been cared for by Friends of the Koala in Lismore since being forced from his home because of work on the Alstonville bypass. He is supposed to be released at the same location, but his carers fear he will not survive in the degraded habitat.

Infrastructure hinders habitat

INTENSIFIED infrastructure works on the Northern Rivers is making it increasingly difficult for wildlife groups to return injured animals to their habitat.

The Lismore-based Friends of the Koala recently rescued a four-year-old koala named Leon at Suncrest Avenue, Alstonville – an area under immense change due to the Alstonville bypass.

It is likely Leon’s habitat has been affected by the bypass, so Friends of the Koala are reluctant to return him to the area.

However, they are hamstrung by the National Parks and Wild-life Act. The Act requires wildlife rehabilitation groups such as Friends of the Koala to return any injured animals to within 2km of where they were rescued.

“What we do with Leon next is the problem,” Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said.

“There is not much habitat where he came from and the little that is there is already occupied.

“We are consulting with ecologists to ascertain options for giving Leon the best possible chance of resuming his life, but I doubt it is going to be possible to return him to his original home range.

“When we have a proposition to take to the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water’s Wildlife Licensing Unit we will make an application to release him.”

Ms Vass and Leon’s rescuer, Pat Barnidge, said it was rare to find a koala in that part of Alstonville.

“He definitely does not belong there,” Ms Vass said.

“The guidelines we follow are from 1997 and there is a meeting with the department and wildlife groups in Port Macquarie on August 14.

“This will be brought up as a case study because the whole release issue is a big one for us.

“In fact, it is a big issue for most regions east of the Great Dividing Range.”

Ms Vass said she understood the legislation was in place to stop wildlife groups releasing animals in unsuitable habitats, but she believed there was room for greater flexibility within the policy to allow for cases such as Leon’s.

Koala colonies on the Northern Rivers are struggling, not only with growing infrastructure and human population needs, but also with disease.

Chlamydia, retro viruses and cancers have many colonies under pressure.



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