Endangered koalas in eastern Australia recently suffered another loss of habitat, this time to clear the way for a Toyota dealership.
The area in southeastern Queensland has recently seen a boom in urbanization. In April, Yahoo News Australia reported on the recent openings of a McDonald’s, a KFC, and a Taco Bell across the street from a Westfield shopping center that opened in 2018. And last September, the process of clearing land for a Woolworths supermarket began, angering some residents.
This urban sprawl is having a negative effect on the koala population. In 2021, a disoriented koala was found in the Westfield parking lot. Following treatment at a wildlife hospital, the koala, believed to be 10 years old, had to be returned to the wild.
Amy Wregg of Wildcare Australia, a nonprofit organization, said to Yahoo News Australia at the time, “With this one, because of his age, he needs to go back to his habitat, but where does he go? I’m just worried that wherever I release him, he’s going to get pushed out again.”
As for the new Toyota dealership, Yahoo News Australia claimed to have seen documents proving that koalas and other protected species used the site before it was developed.
Why the development of koala habitat is concerning
Professional rescuers like Wregg believe koalas in the region will be extinct by 2050.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Wreggs told Yahoo News Australia. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.”
According to the City of Gold Coast, urban development is one of the biggest threats to the koala population. This isn’t just due to loss of habitat but also to the dangers of being hit by cars and attacked by dogs, threats that increase with development and greater human presence.
On top of that, fencing limits the movement of koalas, and they can drown in pools if they don’t have a way to climb out.
What’s being done to help the koala population
In early 2022, the Australian government changed the koala population from vulnerable to endangered in parts of eastern Australia, including Queensland, which should increase protections for the koalas. Weeks earlier, the Australian government announced it would direct nearly $36 million toward recovery and conservation efforts in the coming years.
For its part, the City of Gold Coast is implementing what’s called the Koala Conservation Plan. Among other things, the plan consists of regulating development, buying land for koala habitat, restoring existing koala habitat, and working to reduce the number of koalas killed by vehicles or domestic dogs through raising awareness.
The Gold Coast says residents can do their part by reporting koala sightings, especially if it appears sick, injured, orphaned, or in danger.
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