Can Australia save its koalas?

We travel to Brisbane to meet scientists and volunteers trying to prevent the extinction of Australia’s iconic koala.

Queensland, one of the most rapidly urbanising areas of Australia, was once home to over one million koalas.

But koala numbers have dropped by 80 percent since the 1990s while the human population grows by 1,000 people a week.

Increasing numbers of koalas are forced to live within cities, and there is concern that without immediate intervention, koalas could face extinction in less than 50 years.

Jon Hanger, a wildlife vet and founding member of the Koala Research Network, highlights the threats that koalas are exposed to in the city of Brisbane.

“They [koalas] are getting killed on the roads because often they cross at night when they’re difficult to see and drivers don’t see them, so they’ll often get killed,” he says.

Currently, up to 300 koalas are killed by vehicles each year.

“We put a koala-proof fence along the rail corridor and that ensures that they don’t go onto the rail corridor and get killed and if they work their way along the fence, ultimately they will end up finding one or more of the culverts and so with a bit of exploration they’ll often go through,” Hanger says.

Meanwhile, some Australians are planting eucalyptus trees, which are the koalas’ primary food source, to help feed and support them.

Helping koalas navigate the urban jungle is essential to boosting their numbers, but the most significant factor in ensuring their survival is disease prevention.

Chlamydia has reached epidemic proportions among koalas in Australia with over half the population infected. If left untreated, it can cause infertility, blindness and death.

Earthrise travels to Brisbane to meet scientists and volunteers trying to prevent Australia’s iconic koala from extinction.

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