With the closure of Waterways Wildlife Park, the Koala Capital of the World is basically left with one lone frontline soldier – an unpaid Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) carer.
This wildlife carer pays her own registration, provides her own facilities, drives her own car to and from pick-up sites, and makes herself available at times when the rest of us are tucked up with Netflix.
She has helped koalas – and many other native animals – survive, and has often had to watch them die. It is not right that this responsibility sits at the door of one volunteer.
If we are to help Gunnedah’s koala population survive – and it is in dire need of assistance – it’s time to look at what needs to be done.
We need more frontline help. We need people who are passionate about koalas and other animals, and who have the time to make a difference. And we need the solid backing of our council, our state and the rest of our country.
At the very least, it would be great to see compensation for the costs carried by this carer. Instead of watching our inland koalas dwindle and die, how about a few brave steps from our elected representatives? What about a tree replacement policy and other solid measures to guard what’s left of the shrinking habitat?
Why not dare to be different and have a koala ranger who could work with the proposed koala centre, oversee critical policies, look at conservation measures and habitat maintenance, and assist in koala rescue? There are many ways our council could lead the way.
It is absolutely essential that any koala centre have a health care facility attached. Gunnedah has been allocated $6.48 million for a koala park and education centre. Port Stephens has only $3 million to establish a koala hospital.
There are still koalas here. Just ask the WIRES carer who had two sick koalas in enclosures this month and was visited by another popping down from the trees.
However, all the recent research shows the population has plummeted. Soon enough, due to chlamydia, vehicle strikes, shrinking habitat, dogs and global warming, we will have waved them goodbye.
Our only remaining koalas may be the couple kept in enclosures at Gunnedah’s koala centre.
Marie Low is the chair of community group Project Koala Gunnedah.