Wildlife parks - last frontier for Koala survival The Koala was

Wildlife parks - last frontier for Koala survival
The Koala was declared ‘vulnerable’ by the Australian Government in April 2012 although
there have been suggestions that status should be upgraded to ‘critically endangered’ in
specific regions such as the South East Queensland Bioregion and into NSW.
Koalas down the east coast of Australia are suffering the effects of habitat destruction,
bushfires, road accidents, and disease and dog attacks. Their numbers have declined by at
least 30% from 1990 to 2010 in NSW, and 43% over the same period in Queensland.
Some wildlife parks such as Oakvale Farm and Fauna World on the Mid-North Coast have
spent years developing successful and sustainable breeding programs to ensure that koala
populations survive into the distant future.
Oakvale Farm and Fauna World embarked on a tree planting project 12 years ago and now
have 3000 established trees, enabling them to be self-sufficient. They also established
another 30 000 trees on disused sand mines, linking up vital koala habitats and creating a
safe haven for koala populations away from built up areas. Revegetating the sand mines this
way has been a positive step to creating a sustainable future for the koalas.
The Koala Preservation Society has partnered with Oakvale to support the local wild koala
Kent and Leanne Sansom are the owners of Oakvale Farm and Fauna World and they have
worked tirelessly on the development of comfortable surrounds for their koalas to breed.
Kent explains, “Koalas are fussy feeders. They will change their mind about what Eucalyptus
species they feel like eating every few days. So we monitor their tastes with fresh varieties
constantly. We have the resources to feed them with fresh tree branches and leaves from
our own site.”
Oakvale Farm is so successful in breeding koalas, that many other wildlife parks and zoos
have received koalas from them.
“We get calls from other parks when their koalas are pregnant, asking for advice on how to
make sure it is a successful process. One of the key points we stress is to leave the pregnant
mother alone. Don’t touch or check the joey, or handle the mother more than need be.”
Kent said.
The EPA documents on their native animal facts sheet that the Koala contributes between
$1.1 billion to $2.5 billion to the Australian economy and provides 9000 jobs. Economically,
it makes sense to place the native marsupials high on the agenda.
Oakvale Farm and Fauna World are the 2013 recipients of a TQual grant from the federal
government to continue with their work on koala preservation and education. The grant
provides $110 000 from the government, to be matched by the farm.
A new construction is planned with the money from the grant that will allow Oakvale Farm
and Fauna World to provide a better interactive educational experience for local and
international tourists as well as students. The business is already involved in primary,
secondary and tertiary education which will be further enhanced by the new facility. Visitors
will be able to see koalas in a naturalistic but controlled habitat, safe from predators,
extreme weather, and habitat loss. The construction itself has been planned closely,
including only recycled or plantation grown timbers and incorporating natural light in its
design to minimise the need for power. All signage in the proposed building will incorporate
various languages to create a more welcoming international tourist environment.
Oakvale Farm and Fauna World are community philanthropists and will have a greater
ability to support local groups and schools with the increased exposure the koala enclosure
will provide.
Kent said “Wildlife parks are the last frontier in saving the koala population. We educate
people so they know about the plight of the koala. If numbers decline in the wild then we
can keep the species going. The whole idea of our new koala centre is to breed koalas and
create a sustainable population to give to other parks and release them into the wild. We
have created the koala corridor, ready for that time.”