January 22 – 28, 2012, Issue: 42

Between pp. 48-49 A monkey or bear of N.S.Wales Image No.. a2424015 from William Govett notes and sketches taken during a surveying Expedition in N. South Wales and Blue Mountains Road by William Govett on staff of Major Mitchell, Surveyor General of New South Wales, courtesy State Library of NSW


Koalas are in serious decline suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, bushfires and road accidents. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000.

There is arguably no legislation that effectively and/or consistently protects koala habitat anywhere within Australia, not necessarily because the legislation does not exist, but because there is not always the political will to adequately resource, implement, police and enforce such legislation.

There are four states where koalas occur in the wild - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - and each state has its own legislation (see below).

The Federal Government passes responsibility for protection of koala habitat to the states. The states often pass principal responsibility to local government. Local government is where most day to day decisions are made about what happens to koala habitat but where there is often the least amount of resources and expertise in wildlife management or habitat assessment.

From the Australian Koala Foundation: https://www.savethekoala.com/koalasendangered.html

What you can do: write a letter or email:

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced that he has again deferred a decision on whether to list the koala as a nationally threatened species (until February 2012).  The Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 

PO Box 6022, Parliament House, Canberra  ACT  2600, or email tony.burke.mp@environment.gov.au.

Save the Koala Month (all of September each year) and Day (last Friday of September):  September 28th, 2012 to get involved: https://www.savethekoala.com/fundraiseforkoalas.html

Save The Koala Petition by Animal Rescue (to Federal Government):  HERE 

Find out more at Pittwater Council Koala Preservation: 

February 19- 25, 2012 Issue: 46

Koalas told to ‘hold your breath for 10 weeks’ - considered extinct in Pittwater

On our Environment page in recent weeks we’ve been running information regarding koalas, once prolific in Pittwater, and the expected to be announced February 16th decision from current Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke on granting these beautiful creatures Threatened Species Status.

This decision had already been delayed three times by former Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. On the nominated Thursday 16th,  without making a ‘blip’ anywhere, Hon. Tony Burke delayed making any announcements for his second time too, opting to state he’ll state something on April 30. His Office's Press Release does state: ' that a listing is being considered but only on certain populations in specific areas of Australia, namely along State borders, citing information from  ‘The Threatened Species Scientific Committee’ report that the koala ‘is abundant in some areas and declining in others’.  

A Senate Inquiry, the ABC (1.) pointed out on Friday, states that in the Gunnedah District only 6000 hectares out of a possible half a million hectares is considered to be koala habitat. 

From Hon. Tony Burke's Offices Press Release on this matter: 

A Senate inquiry has provided valuable information and findings which are being taken into account by the Government in making this decision, in addition to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee's advice that has been provided in accordance with national environmental law.

This, also from this Press Release, would seem to be an announcement that no Threatened species listing will occur; 

“… I can't provide a blanket threatened species listing across Australia when there are many places where koala numbers remain high. That means any listing would need to apply only to specific parts of Australia. The advice I've received from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee suggests that I could generalise these areas to state boundaries.

"I agree with the Committee's findings about the need to treat populations differently in different parts of Australia but am seeking further advice on whether there are more precise habitat boundaries than simply adopting state boundaries. I've asked the Committee to come back to me with more precise boundaries which detail the areas where koala populations are dwindling. I don't expect that there will be any need for a further extension of time after 30 April."

Access to the TSSC documents is available (listed below). What the TSSC really said is: “The TSSC conducted a thorough assessment of the status of the national koala population, including an extensive literature review, an expert workshop and public and expert submissions. The TSSC recommended that the koala was not eligible for listing as nationally threatened, but noted that reaching a conclusion was challenging due to significant gaps in national koala population data.” 

See the word ‘abundant’ in that statement ? How about the rest of it: it’s 38 pages long, deals with, apart from one WA singular instance, the eastern coast of Australia to south Australia, 32 places in all, so koalas must be ‘abundant’ if still in a whole 33 places!!, and has 8 pages of citations listed as part of this 38 page document's total. It does state that they are considered extinct in Pittwater (p. 26). And yes, the word ‘abundant’ appears in reference to a 2008 phenomenon in Victoria inserted amongst a paragraph which hypothesises that fluctuations in Koala population may be a facet of koala biology, but as no one has conducted any ‘long term research’ apart from citing 1905 and 1927 reports that have noted fluctuations in population, especially during ‘koala harvesting’ (1927. Qld.). 

The report estimates that we have more then 200 000 koalas left, or 1:11 000 humans if we have the 22 million estimated people here. The most telling sentence: 

“The Committee considers the koala to be potentially eligible for listing as vulnerable. However, as noted under Criterion 1, better demographic data are required to make this judgement with confidence.”

Followed by; “Recommendations; The Committee recommends that the list referred to in section 178 of the EPBC Act not be amended at this time by including the Phascolarctos cinereus (koala) in the list in the Vulnerable category. 

Associate Professor Robert J.S. Beeton AM FEIANZ , Chair Threatened Species Scientific Committee”

Professor Beeton Information: http://www.gpem.uq.edu.au/beeton

Threatened Species Scientific Committee's Report HERE

(1.) ABC Report 17.2.2012: here

Male Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) at Billabong Koala and Aussie Wildlife Park, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. By Quartl


New South Wales

oNSW Recovey plan for the koala (PDF - 3 MB)  

oNSW Department of Environment Koala page  

National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009-2014

The word koala comes from the Dharuk gula. Dharuk: the Sydney language, also referred to as Dharug or Iyora. The term Dharug, which can also be spelt Dharukk, Dharoog, Dharrag, and Dararrug, etc., came from the word for yam Midyini. Dharug is the root or the Midyini of the languages of the Sydney basin. The speakers did not use a specific "name" for their language prior to invasion. The coastal dialect has been referred to as Iyora(also spelt Iora, Eora), which simply means "people", while the inland dialect has been referred to as Dharug (also spelt Darug,Dharuk, Dharruk), a term of unknown origin or meaning. Both names are also used to refer to all dialects of the language collectively.

Copyright Pittwater Online News, 2012. All Rights Reserved. 

 Summer Creature Features; Koala - Treed Part I

At one of those numerous Summer Parties we all go to a 24 year old was recalling how many koalas used to be in the trees at Avalon when she was younger and how she hasn’t seen one for years now.

Twenty years ago an Avalon lady, Kim Bolitho started a petition to preserve their habitat and provide some form of protection for these Pittwater originals. No local would deem these creatures as anything other then endangered, especially here and now. In February 2012 Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke will announce a decision on whether to list the koala as a nationally threatened species and perhaps whether the Government will back calls to ensure this species survives.   

The word koala comes from the Dharuk gula. Although the vowel ‘u’ was originally written in the English orthography as "oo" (in spellings such as coola or koolah), it was changed to "oa" possibly due to an error. The word is erroneously said to mean "doesn't drink".

The scientific name of the koala's genus, Phascolarctos, is derived from Greek phaskolos"pouch" and arktos "bear". Its species name, cinereus, is Latin and means "ash-coloured". Although the koala is not a bear, English-speaking settlers from the late 18th century first called it koala bear due to its similarity in appearance to bears. Although taxonomically incorrect, the name koala bear is still in use today outside Australia

A typical Victorian koala (formerly P. cinereus victor) has longer, thicker fur, is a darker, softer grey, often with chocolate-brown highlights on the back and forearms, and has a more prominently light-coloured ventral side and fluffy white ear tufts. Typical and New South Wales koala weights are 12 kg (26 lb) for males and 8.5 kg (19 lb) for females. In tropical and sub-tropical Queensland, however, the koala is smaller (at around 6.5 kg (14 lb) for an average male and just over 5 kg (11 lb) for an average female), a lighter often rather scruffy grey in colour, and has shorter, thinner fur. In Queensland, the koala was previously classified as the subspecies P. cinereus adustus, and the intermediate forms in New South Wales as P. cinereus cinereus. A fourth variation, though not technically a subspecies, is the "golden koala", which has a slight golden tinge to the fur as a result of an absence of the melanin pigment that produces albinism in most other mammalian species. The variation from one form to another is continuous and there are substantial differences between individual koalas in any given region such as hair colour. Koalas may also have white fur in rare cases due to a recessive gene.

The origins of the koala are unclear, although almost certainly they descended from terrestrial wombat-like animals. Koala fossils are quite rare, but some have been found in northern Australia dating to 20 million years ago. During this time, the northern half of Australia wasrainforest. The koala did not specialise in a diet of eucalypts until the climate cooled and eucalypt forests grew in the place of rainforests. The fossil record indicates that before 50,000 years ago, giant koalas inhabited the southern regions of Australia. The koala fills the same ecological role as the sloths of South America.

The koala will eat the leaves of a wide range of eucalypts, and occasionally even some non-eucalypt species such as Acacia, Leptospermum, and Melaleuca. It has firm preferences for particular varieties of eucalypt and these preferences vary from one region to another: in the south Manna Gum, Blue Gum, and Swamp Gum are favoured; Grey Gum and Tallowwood are important in the north, and the ubiquitous River Red Gum of the isolated seasonal swamps and watercourses that meander across the dry inland plains allows the koala to live in surprisingly arid areas. Many factors determine which of the 680 species of eucalypt trees the koala eats. Among trees of their favourite species, however, the major factor that determines which individual trees the koala chooses is the concentration of a group of phenolic toxins called formylated phloroglucinol compounds. Researches on koalas by keepers at 13 wildlife parks and zoos in New South Wales show that the most preferred group of Eucalyptus foliage had the lowest content of condensed tannins.

Koala. (2011, November 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Koala&oldid=459137880

"KOALA AN ASSET."  Plea for Preservation.

Two of five koalas injured in bush fires at Newport on Saturday have died from exhaustion. The three bears which remain are being treated at Koala Park. The secretary of the Koala Club of Australia. Mr. Frank L. Edwards, said yesterday that, during 1937 and 1938, the club had participated in the rescue of nine maimed bears from the Pittwater district.

"At this rate," he added, "the animals will vanish from that district in three or four years. As there are not 200 of them left in New South Wales, this is a tragedy. Koalas, one of our best animal assets, are allowed to stray to their rapid destruction, as in the Pittwater district while the law requires that other stock be paddocked.

"If we lose them." Mr Edwards added, "twould be of little use to talk of stocking up with koalas from elsewhere. The States are  already refusing to transfer koalas and, In any case, the Queensland and Victorian native bear's are different types from ours."

"KOALA AN ASSET.". (1939, January 17). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27976025

A Naturalist's Notebook. By M. S. R. Sharland.

The 'possums, in their different forms, are so widely distributed that they may in all truth be said to be the commonest of our wild animals. Brush-tail, ring-tail, and "flying squirrel" occur just as freely in and adjacent to the cities as in deep forests and open bushlands, though being nocturnal they seldom force themselves upon our notice.

Scattered throughout the State are districts which might well be termed strong-holds of wild life, where native animals are still plentiful. These places are not necessarily remote from towns or cities, not quite often close to them, and one I have in mind, and one of the most interesting of its kind, is the area of well wooded hills overlooking Pittwater and the sea, behind Avalon Beach, A friend muted me there for the week-end recently, and It happened to be a time when the moon was past the full, but for all that seemed to yield a more brilliant light, and rarely have I seen the bush so crisp and ornamental as on this night of sparkling luminosity.

What a lot of beauty we miss at night by living in cities. And what a lot of fascinating life moves beyond our ken under cover of darkness, the presence of which we suspect and only rarely see. Creatures whose ways and movements are shielded beneath the shadows of night nave a peculiar attraction, probably because human beings, not having "night eyes”, can never really understand them and something that we can't quite master is always attractive.

The stately spotted gums and wattles in front of the cottage yielded the sight of “flying squirrels" moving actively up and down the branches and parachuting from one tree to another as fancy took them. Ringtails also tenanted the trees. But the larger brush-tailed varieties came boldly over the ground and climbed a stump where their human friends had placed some food. I did not have the good fortune to see a native bear, but the koala is well known here, and, in fact, one came to the cottage the night after I had left. Avalon is one of the few remaining places where the koala can be seen in the wild state. It must be rigorously protected here, and would-be captors or destroyers kept away with flaming sword. The residents and regular week-end visitors are justly proud of the richness of the district's fauna, and thus are the best kind of "rangers."

Mr. A. J. Small, of Martin Place, recently told me two curious stories about possums, each of which had also to do with a cat. I had never heard of a possum doing battle with a cat, though the larger kinds are pugnacious enough. At any rate, Mr. Small told me that his cat at Avalon Beach had a fight with a possum and apparently came off worst, as the side of its face was badly torn by the possum's claws. The wound turned septic and caused a lot of trouble. In this case the cat probably attacked the possum, which retaliated to good effect.

The other story concerned a possum at Mr. Small's home at Wollstonecraft. He went out the back door one day and was surprised to see in broad daylight a possum and a cat sharing a plate of bones on the door mat. Neither animal showed any resentment of the other's presence. Mr. Small blames possums for making a mess of garbage tins, which they visit at night in search of food. 

From: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Saturday 15 March 1941, page 11

Female Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) at Billabong Koala and Aussie Wildlife Park, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. 25 February 2009 Source Own work Author Quartl

May 6 - 12, 2012 Issue: 57

Koalas to be Listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in NSW

We’ve been following this story for a while now and had cause to shed a few tears of joy this week, here’s why: (below). Well done all of you who did something to see this tide turn. Let’s hope it turns enough for koalas to be returned to, be safe, and thriving in Pittwater again by the time our children’s children are playing beneath the resident gum trees.

From: The Hon Tony Burke MP - Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities - Koala protected under national environment law - Media release 30 April 2012

Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has today announced Australia's most at-risk koala populations need to be included on the national list of threatened species. Minister Burke has decided to list koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as vulnerable under national environment law.

"Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they hold a special place in the community," Mr Burke said. "People have made it very clear to me that they want to make sure the koala is protected for future generations.

"My decision to list the koala under national environment law follows a rigorous scientific assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee which gathered information from a variety of experts over the past three years.

"Koala populations are under serious threat from habitat loss and urban expansion, as well as vehicle strikes, dog attacks, and disease.

"However, koala numbers vary significantly across the country, so while koala populations are clearly declining in some areas, there are large, stable or even increasing populations in other areas.

"In fact, in some areas in Victoria and South Australia, koalas are eating themselves out of suitable foraging habitat and their numbers need to be managed.

"But the Queensland, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory koala populations are very clearly in trouble, so we must take action.

"That is why the scientific committee recommended to me to list the Queensland, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory populations as threatened, rather than to list the koala as nationally threatened across its full range."

Mr Burke said the Gillard Government had committed $300,000 of new funding under the National Environmental Research Program Emerging Priorities to find out more about koala habitat.

"This funding will be used to develop new survey methods that will improve our knowledge of the quality of koala habitat using remote sensing, and help fill important data gaps to enhance our understanding and ability to protect the species," Mr Burke said.

"The new funding is in addition to more than $3 million we have invested since 2007 to ensure the resilience and sustainability of our koala population."

For more information on the koala listing go to www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/koala or http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=197