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Tree-clearing is causing an animal welfare crisis in Queensland – with koalas on the frontline – according to a joint report released today, National Threatened Species Day, by RSPCA Queensland and WWF-Australia.
RSPCA Queensland records show that rescues of forest-dependent wildlife* more than tripled from 2,331 in 2011 to 7,950 in 2016, with much of this increase put down to habitat destruction.
Bulldozing of forests in Queensland has killed tens of millions of the wild Australian animals living there in recent years.
Scientists estimate tree-clearing in Queensland now kills 34 million animals each year: 900,000 mammals like koalas, possums and gliders, 2.6 million birds like cockatoos and 30.6 million reptiles including goannas, dragons, skinks and geckos.
Koalas are front and centre of this animal welfare crisis.
Over the six years from 2009 to 2014, more than 10,000 koalas were admitted to the four southeast Queensland wildlife hospitals, out of a population of only 15,000 estimated in 2010.
“Nothing else in Queensland causes as much suffering and death among animals as the escalating destruction of bushland habitat by bulldozers and other machinery,” said RSPCA Qld CEO Mark Townend.
“This is due to a gaping hole in our legislative safeguards allowing huge areas of forest to be bulldozed with no requirement to consider or reduce the impact on the animals living there,” Mr Townend said.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said bulldozing of habitat, past and ongoing, is a major factor in the 80% decline of koalas in Queensland’s Koala Coast.
"Thirty-two koalas per week taken to wildlife hospitals in SEQ is a shocking figure.
“Even if koalas and other native animals escape the grinding bulldozers and crashing trees, they face deprivation and death as they crowd into remaining habitats that are already full.
“As they search for a new home they are often hit by vehicles, attacked by other animals, or tangled in fences,” Mr O’Gorman said.
RSPCA Queensland and WWF-Australia called for four major changes to alleviate the animal welfare crisis caused by tree-clearing:
- Much stronger restrictions on tree-clearing
- Survey and relocation of native wildlife should be mandatory for all tree-clearing projects (very few have that as a requirement at present)
- Receiving habitats must have capacity to absorb wildlife relocated there.
- Enhanced funding for research and wildlife rescue services
*Forest-dependent wildlife include many small bushland birds, owls, night birds, parrots, flying-foxes, wallabies, goannas, dragons, gliders, koalas, emus, cassowaries, curlews, bustards, echidnas, platypuses, and bandicoots. Animals that have adapted reasonably well to the urban environment such as brush-tail possums, crows, magpies and green tree frogs were excluded from these counts. Seabirds or shorebirds that do not live in forests were also excluded.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571