Koalas are an iconic Australian symbol. We love them, tourists love them. But here on the Mornington Peninsula, and elsewhere around the country, the koala population is in serious decline.
Koalas need our help. They’re facing a number of threats: land clearing, urban development, changes in our climate, traffic and diseases.
On Thursday 23 May during the breakfast program we spoke to Dirk Jansen from the Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation group.
During our interview the following key points were made.
- Most koala habitat on the peninsula is now on private land.
- Koala numbers—measured by reported sightings and wildlife carer interactions with the marsupials—are reducing dramatically. This indicates the number of koalas on the peninsula has fallen over the past few years.
- Council and state government planning have a role to play in reducing land clearing activities and maintaining suitable habitat for our local koala population.
- Climate heating is leading to drier conditions and less moisture in the leaves of trees for koalas to eat and hydrate with. Extended hot periods (multiple days over 40-degrees) in summer are proving deadly for local fauna.
- Fragmentation of their habitat is leaving individual koalas stranded, with fewer food and breeding options.
- Individuals can help koalas by planting native, indigenous plants—particularly coastal manna gums (Eucalyptus viminalis subspecies pryoriana). Staff at the shire nursery at The Briars can help you with koala-friendly plant selection.
- If gardens around our state parks and in bushland included koala-friendly gum trees, there would be more feeding and habitat options for them.
- Residents are encouraged to take care when driving at dusk and dawn. These are the times koalas may be on the move between stands of gum trees. Fragmentation of their habitat means they need to descend from trees and travel across the ground—where there are many treats to them.
- Be aware of older gum trees—these are great habitat for native animals of all kinds—and we should think twice before removing them from our properties.
Here are some contacts for local wildlife carers.