Moment koala looks towards 'home' as bulldozers roll in: 'Beyond a joke'

Can Australia save it's endangered koala populations from extinction?

The moment an endangered Gold Coast koala stared across a road at developers flattening her habitat has been captured in a photograph.

The image was taken on Sunday by professional wildlife rescuer Amy Wregg after she stopped to check on the marsupial's welfare. “(She) was looking towards what used to be their home,” she told Yahoo.

Left - A koala in a tree looking over a Helensvale Road at the Coomera Connector. Right - a close up of the koala.
Look closely and you'll see a koala looking over at what had been remnant habitat. Source: WildCare/Amy Wregg

On Monday morning, Amy was searching for yet another koala displaced by development and her frustration was clear. “We’re just fast-tracking extinction really, we’re not even trying to help them. It’s got beyond a joke,” she said.

While koalas have poor eyesight, the noise of construction and the constant stream of cars were no doubt unwelcoming.

Photos reveal how humans impact wildlife

If you're not rescuing wildlife like Amy does every day, it's easy to forget that animals are routinely disturbed by developers as they work to support our growing human population. Even if you were cruising by the koala Amy spotted on Helensvale Road, you probably wouldn't have noticed her. So it's images and videos that often drive home how we are impacting the natural world.

Source: Yahoo
Source: Yahoo

It's not the first time Yahoo has shared images taken by Ms Wregg that show koalas coming into contact with humans — in 2021 it published a haunting image she'd taken of a koala drowned at the bottom of a pool.

But problems aren't confined to the Gold Coast. In June, Yahoo shared an award-winning photo by wildlife photographer Doug Gimesy of a baby wombat which he hoped would highlight the silent victims of increasingly busy roads in Victoria.

Internationally, images are also increasing awareness of human impact on wildlife. In 2018, a viral video showing an orangutan trying to fight off a bulldozer in Indonesia, brought attention to the issue of deforestation by palm oil plantation owners. While the ingredient is included in thousands of processed foods in Australian supermarkets, its easy to forget about the harm it causes.

Two images of an oranguatan trying to fight off a bulldozer.
An orangutan was filmed trying to fight off a bulldozer in Indonesia's Ketapang District in 2013, and the video went viral in 2018 and again in 2023. Source: International Animal Rescue

Why was the koala habitat removed?

The photo Amy took on Sunday draws attention to the ongoing fragmentation of koala habitat across the Gold Coast. In this case, the marsupial can be seen staring at bulldozers creating the Coomera Connector — a highway project funded by the federal and state governments. The green corridor in the image below has now mostly been removed.

If the next stage of the Coomera Connector goes ahead, the plan is to build it through the area where Amy photographed the koala. It will then continue through one of the city’s last remaining healthy koala populations. The animals living there will likely be moved elsewhere.

A map showing the planned Coomera Connector. A red circle around the place where the koala was photographed.
This historical image shows where the koala was photographed and the habit corridor that has been removed for the Coomera Connector. Source: Transport and Main Roads

Road through koala habitat will ease commuter congestion

The Gold Coast's human population is booming and congestion on its roads can be worse than in Sydney and Melbourne. At the southern end of the city, between Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, a controversial 1.2 billion light rail extension is planned. But in the northern suburbs, it's a new road that government believes is the magic bullet to ease commuter frustration.

The federal and state governments have each invested $1.08 billion into stage one of the Coomera Connector, a 16km four-lane road between Nerang and Coomera. They have committed a further $22 million combined to continue planning for new stages of the road, which they hope will eventually stretch all the way to Logan, south of Brisbane.

A still of cars on a Gold Coast road. There is clearing in the background.
Traffic on Gold Coast roads is congested and without new transport options. It will get worse as the population grows. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Is it just one road impacting koalas?

Over in Coomera, much of the habitat that sustained a healthy population of 500 koalas in 2018 has already been removed. Bushland has been replaced by housing and public buildings, as well as new retail outlets including Westfield, McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, a Toyota dealership and Woolworths.

While koalas were declared endangered in 2022, much of the development was approved before their listing. So even if the government wanted to protect the species’ habitat there would be little it could do under current laws.

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