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Development threats lead rescuer to predict Gold Coast koalas are set for extinction

After spending a week with wildlife rescuer Amy Wregg on the Gold Coast in September, she was hopeful the species had a future despite ongoing dog attacks, car strikes, disease, and habitat loss. In March we spoke with her again and she had lost hope, predicting the species will be locally extinct well before 2050. With thanks to WIRES and WildCare.

Video transcript


- Tourists flocked to the Gold Coast for its surf beaches and theme parks. But there's a dark secret behind the famous strip. And it's being made worse by the region's popularity.

AMY WREGG: So my Facebook memory came up a few years ago doing a koala rescue in this exact location. And now the trees are completely gone.

- Professional rescuer Amy Wregg is charged with picking up the pieces as development continues.

AMY WREGG: Yeah, it does feel like Groundhog Day.

- What's the hardest thing about this job?

AMY WREGG: Oh, it's just fear of failing them I think is the biggest thing I struggle with. Knowing that you can't catch a koala that needs help, but it's out there injured. And you've got a broken beak. Given the eyeball it kind of looks like it's being hit by a car. What happened to your mouth?

- During the day she works for wires as the region's only full-time paid rescuer. At night, she volunteers her time for a local charity Wild Care. While she rescues dozens of species of animals, it's koalas who have a special place in her heart.

- Do you dream about koalas?

AMY WREGG: People count sheep to go to sleep, I count koalas. No. I don't think I dream at all so.

- Do you sleep well?


- The Gold Coast population skyrocketed from 29,000 residents in 1950 to 247,000 in 1990. Then more than doubled to 699,000 in 2020. Houses, shopping centers, and roads are being built, gobbling up the last fragments of habitat where wildlife survives. Animals like koalas, which have been declared endangered, are continuing to be squeezed out of forests and into the path of dogs, cars, and disease.

- She's found a baby koala. It's sitting at the very front of a very small tree between her and a neighbor.


- So it's in Coomera.

AMY WREGG: Yep. Oh, look at that. We're going back to Coomera in a development we just drove past.


- Hi. Thank you for coming out this afternoon.

AMY WREGG: Come on. It's OK darling. It's OK.

- I know. Isn't she beautiful? This is not where she should be, is it? In a street where there's cars and dogs and things. Is it? Where should she be? In the bush somewhere, shouldn't she? Unfortunately we've all built our houses where they live.


- Yeah, we are [BLEEP] unfortunately, aren't we?

- Do you ever feel like calling it quits?

AMY WREGG: No. No, I haven't reached that point yet. I feel like you hit head up against a brick wall a lot, but I've never reached the point of giving up.

- How do you keep hope?

AMY WREGG: Without hope what have we got? [INAUDIBLE]

- Does that give you hope?

AMY WREGG: It does.


- Six months after filming, Amy Wregg phoned me and said the number of rescues she was doing had increased. She said she now fears koalas on the Gold Coast will be extinct in the next few years. Do you that's a real possibility?

AMY WREGG: Oh, 100%. Yeah. It's heartbreaking. It's just not a matter of if, it's when. As long as the demand for housing outweighs the need for wildlife, housing will always boom. And right now we're in the middle of the biggest housing crisis ever. And it's just fast tracking the development.