On January 16, 2017 Stan Mussared's "Goodbye Blinky Bill" was published as the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner. Koalas were under threat then and had been for years. What Stan wrote in 2017 still applies today. Indeed their situation is even worse now with predictions that they could be extinct in NSW by 2050.
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Far too often we humans stand beneath a tree, look up at a koala on a branch far above our heads and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Our interests are more important than yours.”
The koala may answer softly, “No tree, no me.” He could have added, “And if my home is threatened, then so is the diversity of other flora and fauna that share the same ecosystem with me.”
But we fail to hear.
Forested areas are cleared to make way for our developments – urban areas, agriculture, roads and highways – and loss of habitat, the number one threat to a healthy koala population, takes place.
The precious habitat areas that remain are fragmented and isolated, and on koalas trying to exist in these pockets the pressure builds and serious issues quickly arise.
There is now excessive energy expenditure on greater ground movement as koalas search for the scattered food trees. As they move across highways, fences, car parks, and backyards, they face a myriad of problems from motor vehicles, dogs and swimming pools.
The greatly reduced habitat areas lead to a greater density in the remaining koala population. There is now increased competition for food and many are forced to eat poorer quality leaf. There is also a greater tendency for inbreeding, and thus a lower genetic quality animal.
The destruction of koala habitat creates very high stress levels which increases susceptibility to disease.
Historically koalas have not been treated well. Up until 1930 around 2 million koalas were “harvested” for the fur trade. A public outcry resulted in a change and koala numbers slowly increased. However, with habitat being removed , koala numbers are spiralling down again.
It is indeed time that we change our statement as we look up and say in a voice loud enough for him to hear, “Yes, I will care for you and our Community of Life with understanding, compassion and love.”
- Stan Mussared