Koala Bears Conservation
How many koalas
When Europeans first arrived in Australia in the 1700s there were possibly 10 million or more koalas. In the two centuries since then the population has fallen dramatically. Scientists do not always agree on the current size of the koala population, although some believe the total number is somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 animals.
Save the koalas
By 1930, koalas were so rare that animal experts believed the species could disappear altogether. The government made new laws to protect it. Large – scale hunting was completely banned.
Koalas in South Australia had already been wiped out. Conservation workers launched projects to bring them back to areas where they once lived. Koalas living farther north were caught and released into suitable woodlands in the south. These re- introductions worked well and the koalas bred successfully.
Koalas are not endangered, but the loss of their habitat is a serious threat, preserving koala habitats is the most important thing people can do to help these animals. Groups such as the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) help protect koalas by working with governments to make laws that conserve koala’s homes.
Koala sanctuaries, such as the lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on the western coast of Australia, are reserves where people raise and protect koalas. Researches study koalas to find ways to protect them.
The people of Australia are now trying to protect koalas. They have set aside special areas with plenty of eucalyptus trees where the koalas can live. These special areas are called preserves. In preserves, the eucalyptus trees are safe, too. If people continue to take care of Australia’s eucalyptus forests, koalas will be munching leaves for, long time.
While they are not in immediate danger, koalas face some very serious problems. Australians are deeply concerned about the lovable marsupial, which has become a symbol of their country. They have built hospitals where can treat injured koalas and then return them to their original habitats. They have formed organizations dedicated to the protection of koalas and of the eucalyptus forests. In some parts of Australia, governments have established parks and refuges where koalas can live undisturbed by people. Many koalas are rescued and taken to parks and preserves. These protected areas are sanctuaries, or safe places, for them to live.
Others are placed in zoos, so more people can learn about them. People can help save koalas and other animals by not destroying the forests in which they live.
Koalas are not easy to keep in captivity because they are such fussy eaters. In the past it has also been difficult to breed koalas in captivity, although there are now some successful breeding programs. San Diego zoo has bred over 100 koalas since 1976. Although it now has a very healthy population of koalas, the zoo regularly tries to get new animals from Australia to make sure that its koala collection does not suffer from inbreeding.
What do koalas need?
How can koalas survive the impact of human activities? Koalas need safe areas of undisturbed habitat and other koalas nearby. If an area built up with houses, roads, parking garages, and yards, koalas find it more difficult to establish home ranges. Without these they can die from lack of food and shelter. Swimming pools in people’s back yards are also dangerous. Although they can swim, some koalas drown because they cannot climb out if they fall in.
Koalas are a protected species
Koalas are a protected species, which means that people cannot take them from the wild or have them in their possession without a special permit. It also means koalas cannot be kept as pets. However, although these laws exist to protect koalas themselves, the laws fail to protect the eucalyptus woodlands where they live, and without eucalyptus trees there would be no koalas.
At present it is up to each state government in Australia to protect its koala s and to list their status. The status of a species reflects how close people think it is to actually dying out. The listing generally ranges from common (or not thought to be under threat) to threatened, vulnerable, and rare to endangered and then, finally extinct. The nearer to extinction a species is listed, the more a government is responsible for conserving both the species and its habitat. Different states have different approaches to listing their koalas. In Queensland koalas are currently listed as common. In New South Wales they are listed as vulnerable, in South Austria as rare, and in Victoria they are not listed at all.
National Koala act
Conservationists are calling on the Australian Government for a National Koala Act, or for changes to existing laws, that will help ensure the long – term future of koalas. They want the law to:
What can be done
To solve the overcrowding problem on Kangaroo Island, some conservationists want to:
Artificial birth control is one method that has been used to reduce the number of koalas on the island. So far almost 3,500 animals on the island have been sterilized (so they can no longer breed) and released back into the wild. Around 1,200 of these have now been relocated to the mainland. However, not all scientists agree with this solution.
Koalas road signs
Road signs such as those, warn drivers to watch out for crossing koalas.
Koalas - ecotourism
As a result, special vacations called ecotours are becoming popular. Ecotourism means enjoying nature and learning about living things and the environment by experiencing it. Real ecotourism supports wildlife conservation, benefits local people, and does little harm to the environment. Some ecotour give people the chance to help with practical conservation projects, such as planting koalas food trees. Ecotourism can really help koalas because of practical help. The money from ecotour goes into further research and more conservation projects.
Despite their importance, koalas have not benefited very much from it. Little of the money brought in by tourists has been put back into conserving them or their habitat.
The tourism industry in Australia has been growing rapidly over recent years and is now very important to the country’s economy. Many foreign tourists come to see Australia’s unique and fascinating wildlife. The koala is one of the country’s best – known animals. It plays an important role as a symbol promoting Australia’s tourism industry.
Photos and cartoons of koalas are often used in advertisements and travel brochures designed to attract tourists.
Koalas in zoo
Koalas are enormously popular with zoo visitors. Zoos around the world play a valuable role in raising awareness about the threats faced by koalas. And the importance of their conservation. Zoos also make it possible for thousands of people to see live koalas, an experience that many people may not be able to have in the wild.
A few zoos carry out research on koala conservation, and some provide money for research and surveys.
For example, when The San Diego Zoo lends its koalas to another zoo it must put some money directly toward koala conservation in Australia.
Koalas are a big business
Income from foreign tourists who come to see koalas totaled around $630 million in 1996, and rose to over $1,250 million by 2000.
This includes money spent by tourist on wildlife tours in the bush, visiting zoos and wildlife parks, souvenirs, photographs with koalas, and hotels. Koalas bring in more money each year than Australia’s woodchip industry, which is responsible for some of the tree clearing that destroys koala habitat.
Koalas can be moved around Australia, provided they are taken to suitable eucalyptus habitats. However, very few have survived in other countries. From about 1800, many were captured and sold to zoos overseas, but unfortunately, most die within a few weeks. Today, only about ten zoos and nature parks outside Australia have koalas.
Although koala breeding in captivity is successful, it cannot help the long term conservation of these animals. Koalas bred in zoos are unable to survive if they are released into the wild. In addition, zoos do not play a large part in the conservation of koala habitats.
The only real future for koalas lies in protecting wild koalas and their natural surroundings.
There are good reasons to be hopeful about the future for koalas. They are Australia’s most loved animal and are recognized worldwide as a symbol for the country. They are closely linked with Australia’s expanding tourism industry.
Many people are now working hard to help conserve koalas, public awareness of the problems koalas face is increasing in Australia and throughout the world. However, more than their popularity is needed to save these animals.
Steps are being taken to save the koala. The Australian government, state governments, and private groups have set aside special preserves where koalas can live in peace and without fear of losing their homes. The Australian koala Foundation, a private group, manages koala preserves.
Through the group’s efforts and the hard work of many others, concerned people are making sure this symbol of Australia is around for a long time to come.