As koala numbers plummet around Australia, one of the biggest populations in south-east Queensland is under threat as developers move in.
Known as the East Coomera population, a third of their habitat has been destroyed over the past decade — and now more bushland has been earmarked for housing developments.
“We are seeing huge amounts of koalas moving into other locations, creating higher densities than ever before and densities that are simply unsustainable,” spokesperson for the Coomera Conservation Group Nicole Taylor said.
Ms Taylor took on the role of conservationist after seeing what she believed was evidence of the impact of urban development on her local koala population.
“My family was on it’s way to the Coomera train station to catch the train to the Ekka, when we came across a deceased koala by the side of the road,” she said.
“It was a deceased male, when I looked up right behind him I saw a bulldozer — that was the moment for me to say this has got to be enough.”
More koalas in less space
The Gold Coast Council has just released a study into the population showing that numbers have remained stable.
But that means there are more koalas in less bushland.
The report also found the land could support about 441 koalas, but with at least 425 koalas already in the area it was nearing its limit.
“The increased average koala activity levels and densities within remaining habitat areas does pose some concerns,” the study stated.
“This will need to be monitored to confirm that the habitat is coping with increased pressures.”
But Nicole Taylor said she worried whatever was being done now could be too little too late.
“We don’t know what is going to happen to those koalas for some years to come,” she said.
“But what we do know already is koalas are increasingly stressed and the hospital submissions are testament to that.”
Increase in koala hospital admissions
Over the past five years the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary have seen an eight-fold increase in submissions in the number of koalas admitted to the hospital from the area.
Senior vet Michael Pyne said that kind of increase was significant.
“Unfortunately with these stats we haven’t drilled down to see exactly why they’re coming in… Koala’s in this area are under a lot of pressure,” he said.
Head of the City Planning committee, who conducted the report, Gold Coast councillor Cameron Caldwell said there was no documented evidence of over-browsing — where koalas eat themselves out of house and home.
“The report says quite clearly that there hasn’t been any overt signs of increase in disease in the population,” he said.
The report also found that at least 1,150 hectares of land needed to be set aside for koalas.
Mr Caldwell said they were investigating as to whether there was “suitable land in the area” and the State Government said they would be willing to work with councils.
“The Queensland Government has been approached by the City of Gold Coast to explore opportunities to secure, consolidate and restore increased koala habitat and is willing to work with the council to identify opportunities,” the Environment Department said in a statement.