Dogs could be banned from Queensland suburbs as koalas face extinction
Dogs could be banned from some south-east Queensland suburbs in a bid to protect at-risk koalas.
A brains-trust of koala experts - University of Queensland's Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Central Queensland's Dr Alistair Melzer and Dreamworld's Al Mucci - comprise a panel to advise on last-ditch efforts to stop koala extinction in Redlands, Pine Rivers and other areas, following a directive from Environment Minister Steven Miles on Monday.
Panel chairman Associate Professor Rhodes said it was clear policies to "protect habitat" by themselves simply did not work.
"There could be things like that, or it could be active management of the threat from the dogs, if they are domestic dogs or wild dogs. And the threats and their responses to those threats are quite different," he said.
"Protecting habitat is critical, but certainly in urban areas, we need certainly to manage dogs and cars much more effectively.
"And that is one thing that hasn't worked in places like Pine Rivers and the Koala Coast (Redlands).
"But it is really those threats from dogs and cars and disease which is driving those (koala) populations down."
He said the causes of koala deaths differed between city and country, with urban development, dogs and cars threats in the city and habitat loss the major issue in regional areas.
Buying up larger parcels of land was being considered, however, using the Pacific Motorway as a rough "dividing line" - allowing urban development on the east, but ensuring koalas were protected to the west - was not on the table.
"It is the job of the committee to consider potential options and then to provide evidence to evaluate those options," Professor Rhodes said.
Fellow panel member Dr Alistair Melzer said koalas in Redlands and Pine Rivers faced a very uncertain future.
"But the reality is this is crunch time for the koalas of the Koala Coast at least," he said.
"The measures that have put in place to date – although extremely well-meant – just haven't worked.
"So a radical re-thinking is needed and that is what the minister has initiated.
"And there will be some winners and some losers whether something is done or not."
Cars, dogs, humans and koalas do no mix
Planners concede demand for small residential blocks, the increasing number of cars and dogs, combined with inadequate local government controls means south-east Queensland koalas are at risk.
In 2013 Fairfax Media reported 10,956 of the 15,644 South East Queensland koalas that died between 1997 and 2011, were struck by cars, mauled by dogs, or from killed by stress-related disease.
The Queensland Government this year received the findings of an extensive report showing an 80 per cent slump in koalas in the Koala Coast/Redland Shire (August 2015). In response $12.4 million was set aside for koala research funding and the special panel was formed.
"The results of the report indicate that we cannot assume the current koala protection strategies will stop the decline," a government spokeswoman said.
What the latest koala research shows
The South East Queensland Koala Population Modelling Study by Associate Professor Rhodes, published in August 2015, found:
1. Koala Coast koala populations have dropped 80.3 per cent between 2011 and 2014;
2. Pine River koala populations have dropped 54 per cent between 2011 and 2014;
3. It is possibly "too late" to save koalas in these areas;
4. "The rapid declines in koala densities in the Koala Coast and Pine Rivers indicate populations in considerable danger".
5. The Koala Coast now has 2963 koalas and Pine Rivers just 299 koalas.
Overall, the study found:
Only 3426 koalas were found in a 2014-15 study of koalas found in 249, 50-hectare study areas in Brisbane (629), Gold Coast (50), Ipswich (36), Logan (282), Moreton Bay (339), Noosa (7) and Redlands (2083).
The area known as Koala Coast includes Redland and Pine River council areas, and shows a massive slump in koala numbers.
"The rate of decline for the Koala Coast was estimated to be more rapid than in Pine Rivers, possibly reflecting the different histories of development," the report said.
"For an animal that already occurs at relatively low densities, annual population declines of the order of magnitude estimated here are likely to result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations."
Source: Brisbane Times