Missy is one of the koalas who's been cared for by Friends of the Koala.
Missy is one of the koalas who's been cared for by Friends of the Koala. Friends of the Koala

'TRAUMATIC': Shocking spike in koala deaths

A SHOCKING 82 koalas were killed on Northern Rivers roads in the year to June 30.

As legislators and environmental groups debate policies that affect koala habitats, Friends of the Koala president Roslyn Irwin has called on them, and the public, to do everything they can to help combat those numbers.

The latest tragedy was last Friday on Hinterland Way near Bangalow.

Ms Irwin said young males were particularly active at the moment, and have made up the majority of road fatalities as they search for new habitats and mates.

Against a car, they stand little chance.


"We can be lucky sometimes, sometimes the hit by the car has been just a glancing blow," Ms Irwin said.

"Really, the trauma they get from a car travelling at a normal speed along a road let alone flying along the road... is usually fatal."

With breeding season well under way, she said many koalas were on the move and vulnerable to road deaths.

"It's a lot of koalas, it's more than one a week," she said.

"If we had that kind of deaths of companion animals people would be up in arms."

Environmental groups have condemned the State Government's koala reserve plan, with North Coast Greens MLC Dawn Walker calling it a "sham".

The North Coast Environmental Council's vice president Susie Russell has meanwhile criticised the Berejiklian government for "ignoring the advice of its own koala experts" and called for an immediate moratorium on the destruction of all known koala habitats.

Ms Irwin said regardless of the so-called reserves, the biggest issue was the ongoing destruction of existing habitat.

"I think the more important thing is for the State Government to ensure that there's no more habitat removed," Ms Irwin said.

As the stresses of habitat pressures compound with widespread disease, Ms Irwin said it was all the more vital for motorists to pay more attention to koalas on the roads.

"We just know that they're so important and they're being absolutely trashed on our roads," she said.

"We don't want to see is reaching the stage where the only place you can see a koala is in a zoo."

If more habitat is stripped away, she said it would be "almost inevitable" they would "reach that tipping point".

"There's no return, you can't come back from that," she said.

She hoped the public and legislators would do everything in their power to give the Aussie icon a fighting chance.

Friends of the Koala care co-ordinator Susannah Keogh said they had 92 rescues in July and August, and 13 in the past week alone.

While spring is usually busy for the group, Ms Keogh said 2018 was the third consecutive year a warm winter saw increased activity throughout the year.

This has meant more exposure to their biggest on-ground threats.

"It's the traumatic stuff we're seeing the most of, dog attacks and car hits," she said.

"They are quite often fatal."

She said the Bangalow area was a hotspot at the moment, but the number of people looking out for koalas has also increased.

Ms Keogh said if you see a koala that's not moving, report it.

Even if the adult has been killed, they're often carrying live young that can be saved.

"Their joeys can live for three days after the mum dies," she said.

North East Forest Alliance spokesman Dailan Pugh said the NSW Koala Strategy did not have a sound scientific basis, based on information acquired through Freedom of Information.

"If the Premier has any genuine concerns for the plight of koalas she must urgently establish a moratorium from logging over the 20,000 ha of clusters of resident koala populations, along with appropriate buffers, identified on State Forests until further assessments are undertaken to identify boundaries of koala usage and determine meaningful climate-resilient koala reserves," Mr Pugh said.

A recent study published in scientific journal Nature, which included genetic samples from Lismore, found most koala populations had low genetic diversity which was "comparable to other outbred species".

If you find a sick or injured koala, phone the Friends of the Koala hotline on 02 6622 1233.

To volunteer to help the group, phone their office on 02 6621 4664.

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