A dead koala has been photographed metres from a new housing development, in a corner of Townsville where the marsupials are seldom seen.
Mysteriously discovered lying beside the Bruce Highway on Monday, the corpse was near LendLease’s Elliot Springs development site and opposite a wildlife park that displays captive koalas.
The Department of Environment (DES) confirmed it is now investigating the dead animal and that it received a report on Tuesday, but it is yet to determine how it died.
It said koalas are protected Nature Conservation Act, and they are considered both an iconic and endangered species, so harming them carries the "highest penalties applicable". "Everyone, including developers, are legally obliged to adhere to the Act or face penalties of up to $464,400 or two years’ imprisonment," a DES spokesperson said.
Did the koala come from the wildlife park?
Some locals initially suspected the koala could have wandered out of Billabong Sanctuary, a nearby wildlife park that houses koalas. But a ranger told Yahoo he has accounted for its captive animals — “As soon as I was made aware of it, I made sure all of our koalas were there,” he said.
Now some locals are questioning whether the koala could have been disturbed by development in the area. Yahoo is yet to determine where the animal originated from.
Images provided to us by a local woman who asked not to be named show the dead koala lying on the ground with its mouth open. The discovery has left her “very angry” — she’s lived in the area for 20 years, and the first one she’s seen is dead.
“Every time developers push bush down a whole lot of wallabies get hit, but it’s a bigger deal with a koala because they’re under threat,” she said.
Have koalas been seen at the LendLease development?
LendLease told Yahoo its works have been carried out “in line with strict management plans”. Federal approval to develop the site was approved under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act in 2016. This was before the species was listed as endangered in 2022.
During LendLease's environmental assessments at Elliot Springs, no koalas were observed by its ecologists and the area has not been designated as core koala habitat. There has not been mass clearing undertaken at the site over the last 12 months, but in June the company cleared 10 trees and some undergrowth to put in a new fence.
Some within the community have called on LendLease to cease further works at the site until further assessments are made of the site to ensure there aren’t remnant koala populations being impacted. In June Yahoo shared the first pictures of a species of lizard not seen since the 1960s that was rediscovered during land surveys.
Can development impact wildlife in Australia?
As developers continue to bulldoze native animal habitat across Australia to make way for new housing and infrastructure, some residents are increasingly concerned, while others welcome the convenience.
On the Sunshine Coast, Keyton a company owned by Lendlease, Aware Super, APG Asset Management is bulldozing glossy black cockatoo feeding grounds in order to build a new retirement home. In NSW, LendLease is behind a controversial development being built in the centre of the state’s last healthy koala population.
There are other separate developments being fast-tracked to help solve the country’s housing crisis. On the Gold Coast, other companies have bulldozed bushland to create housing, roads and public buildings, as well as new retail outlets including Westfield, McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, a Toyota dealership and Woolworths.
In NSW, the state government has approved a development by Walker Corp in Appin close to an endangered koala population.
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