It’s interesting to think that there was a time when Australians didn’t have the same fondness that we have today for our koalas. In fact in the first half of the 20th Century, while much-loved fictional character Blinky Bill was rising to fame, the actual koala was being hunted remorselessly to the point of near extinction.
As koala fur was hot property, extensive culling occurred and over one million koalas (yes one million!) were killed with guns, poisons and nooses. The population has still not fully recovered from such decimation.
There were millions of koalas at the time of European settlement in Australia – now it is estimated that there is approx 88,000, and possibly as few as 43,000 – a pretty sad indictment of our role as custodians.
Today whilst the koala is listed as endangered in some states of Australia, it’s not in others. They are still threatened only this time it’s not with guns and senseless killing for fur, it happens because human lives intersect with their lives and their habitat is being destroyed… unless we really make an effort and decide to put the odds back in their favour! This is where the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) comes in.
The AKF has been around for a while – about 26 years in fact. It was started by two koala advocates – Steve Brown and Barry Scott… who wanted to make a difference and ensure that the koala was around for future generations of Australians.
Deborah Tabart is the CEO and has led the Foundation since 1988. Twenty years after joining the Foundation she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her contributions to the protection of koalas and their habitat, and her service to Australia. She is known around the world as the ‘Koala Woman’; a reflection of her passion and unyielding commitment to protecting this Aussie icon and their natural habitat.
The enemy for the koala at the moment is the destruction of their habitat, dogs, cars and disease, as co founder Barry says:
“The koala suffers not only the ravages of habitat destruction, disease, drought and bushfires, but from humans who allow their dogs to attack, their cars to speed and kill them on the roads and also, unfortunately, public apathy”
This month – September – is Save the Koala Month – and the Foundation is hoping to increase awareness of the plight of one of our most famous marsupials and raise much needed funds to help AKF in their vital work.
So, from the Fish Chick to the Koala Woman (aka Deborah), Steve, Barry and everyone at the Australian Koala Foundation – WELL DONE! Your passion and dedication is an inspiration to us all!
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.