It was a sight that captured the concern of many Australians – a young koala stuck up a power pole with “nowhere to go”.
WWF-Australia has warned that excessive tree-clearing is pushing the adored animal to the brink of extinction in parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
Here was a freeze frame that summed up that warning … and the crisis facing the nation’s iconic species.
Instead of a forest, the koala was surrounded by housing, traffic, barking dogs, construction, and heavy machinery.
During Toowoomba’s January heatwave, it spent at least 48 hours at the top of the pole too terrified to come down.
It had no water, no food, and no shade. Magpies even divebombed the hapless animal.
Exhausted, it tried to rest on a climbing peg.
Darling Downs rescue service Return to the Wild inc. was notified. Founder Clare Gover arrived quickly and called in Ergon for assistance.
With the help of a cherry picker and hand nets, an Ergon worker secured the young koala and brought her down to Clare.
“She was extremely dehydrated and heat stressed from the high temperatures. We gave her fluids and fresh leaf, and held her overnight for a rest,” Clare Gover said.
“Koalas won’t stand a chance if we keep cutting down their trees,” she said.
Luckily for this youngster, there was a happy ending with the koala released in nearby bushland the next day.
It appears the koala had been living in trees either side of McDougall Street in the Toowoomba suburb of Glenvale.
Housing construction destroyed some of that territory and increased traffic made it harder to cross the road.
The koala was likely frightened up the power pole while trying to eke out a living in this shrinking patch of suburban eucalypts.
WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said, in this case, the clearing of suburban trees threatened the young animal.
“Outside of Queensland’s cities and towns, the destruction of bushland happens on a vast scale in places where there are no rescuers like Clare to pick up the pieces,” Dr Taylor said.
“While this koala was saved, WWF estimates tree-clearing killed more than 5,000 koalas between mid-2012 and mid-2016.
“A Queensland Parliament committee is now considering draft laws to rein in the runaway bulldozing of bushland.
“WWF is urging people who care about koalas and other wildlife to write in to support the Bill and urge the Queensland government to go further,” Dr Taylor said.
Support for these laws can be emailed to http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/SDNRAIDC/inquiries/current-inquiries/5VegManagOLAB2018
The closing date for written submissions is 12:00 pm, Thursday 22 March 2018.
WWF-Australia media contact:
Senior Media Officer Mark Symons on 0400 985 571