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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Koalas in Australia: New life in the eucalyptus tree

UUnder an umbrella, two furry bodies are writhing on a wooden ladder. Two fluffy ears protrude from the heads. Rain trickles from above onto the branches of fresh eucalyptus leaves draped around the animals on the scaffolding of ladders and wooden poles. The rain doesn’t bother the koalas otherwise, says veterinarian Jodie Wakeman while touring the Lismore koala sanctuary. But the animal cubs Charlotte and Ivy have no mothers to snuggle with. The same thing happens to a koala in the next cage. “This is Gulliver, our only flood survivor,” says the vet, who works for Friends of the Koala. The koala was found completely soaked. “We’ve been looking for the mother,” Wakeman says, “but we suspect the flooding separated them.”

The approximately 14-month-old koala survived the flood disaster with some luck. From February to March, entire areas in eastern Australia were under water as a result of heavy rainfall. In Lismore, in northern New South Wales, water rose to the roof of many houses. At least four people died and hundreds were left homeless. The flood also had dire consequences for many animals, for dogs and cats that were not rescued in time, or for cows that were washed from their pastures. However, the wild animals are particularly affected, wombats and kangaroos, as well as the koalas, which are already threatened by a shrinking habitat and the spread of epidemics.

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Koalas “Endangered”

In Australia, the number of koalas has dropped drastically over the past two decades. Since February, they have been classified as “Endangered” in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, just ten years after being classified as “Vulnerable”. In 20 years, koala numbers have halved in Queensland and by 62 percent in New South Wales. According to estimates, there are now between 40,000 and 80,000. Before the arrival of the Europeans, there were millions. They were hunted for their soft fur. After the fur trade was banned, populations recovered slightly.

Vet Jodie Wakeman With Baby Koalas Charlotte And Ivy


Vet Jodie Wakeman with baby koalas Charlotte and Ivy
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Image: Till Fähnders

Now their habitat is shrinking in the forest areas on the east coast, which are also popular with humans. The animals are hit by cars and attacked by dogs. Australia is known for its unique wildlife. Koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles adorn T-shirts, coffee mugs and advertising brochures. But the country also has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. More than 500 species are considered endangered. The giant glider, the black-pawed rock kangaroo, the warty honeyeater and the swallow parakeet are threatened. Deforestation, bush fires and cats and foxes that have been introduced are affecting the animal world. If the koala is better protected in the future, it will help other animal species. The equivalent of 32 million euros are to be used to protect the koalas. But that’s not enough for animal rights activists. They call for stricter laws and incentives for landowners to do better to protect forests.

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