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Koalas on threatened species list

August 20, 2012

In key parts of Australia, koalas are dying in big numbers.

In Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory the attrition rate has been so high the Federal Government responded by placing koalas on the Threatened Species “at risk” list.

The only reason we’ve had to intervene at all is the states on their own have allowed numbers to continue to go into freefall.” Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke

Why is this happening? The answer is simple. Development, cars, dogs, disease and climate change are making life tough for these fascinating creatures. The bigger question is, what can be done to save them?

Four Corners travels to three koala hot spots to try to understand the problems they confront. First, reporter Marian Wilkinson looks at South Eastern Queensland, an area where development is exploding. Large tracts of bushland have been set aside for housing and other urban developments, which means koalas will lose their homes and food. She meets a group of scientists forced to play catch up, trying to devise a plan that will save the endangered animals.

In New South Wales koalas are also finding the going tough. West of the Great Dividing Range, conservation programs have tried to create places where the animals can live and be protected from predators, but rising temperatures are putting them at risk. In ultra-hot weather koalas simply dehydrate and die.

In Victoria the situation is very different, but equally as troubling. In that State the koala population was revived with descendents from a small colony on French Island, south-east of Melbourne. Unfortunately, because this revived population came from a small group, there is a limited gene pool, which means major environmental changes leaves many of them at risk too.

There is no doubt Australians want to save this much-loved national icon, but are we prepared to compromise development to protect the koalas’ natural habitat?

“Koala Crunch Time”, reported by Marian Wilkinson and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 20th August at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 21st August at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview or at abc.net.au/4corners.

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