WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: A Queensland wildlife volunteer said he couldn’t sleep the night after finding a mother koala cradling her baby as the pair were fatally struck by a car.
Noosa’s koala population is dwindling to near extinction, with wildlife volunteers blaming land clearing and development, forcing the animals to cross roads after losing their homes and food source.
Bernard Jean received a call to check on a mum and joey hit on Saturday and feared dead.
Mr Jean, who is a Wildcare member and also part of the Queensland Koala Crusaders, was “heartbroken” when he arrived to find the pair dead.
The mother’s body showed she had pulled her baby in close and cradled her in their dying moments in a bid to save the youngster’s life.
“Devastating Saturday for these two beautiful creatures... and for me,” Mr Jean wrote on Facebook, sharing pictures of the pair cuddled together.
The Sunshine Coasts’s koala numbers are dwindling so rapidly that the threat of extinction is very real, according to Mr Jean.
“To me, the loss of these two gentle creatures is two too many,” he said.
“This is what it takes when they lose their habitat and have to cross road,” he wrote on Facebook.
“These pictures will haunt me for a long time.”
Speaking with Yahoo News Australia, Mr Jean said he “was really devastated”.
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” he said.
“I checked for any signs of life but they were both dead... It’s [even more] heartbreaking when it’s a mum and bub.
“They are both females – we need females,” he added, given the importance of breeding to keep the species from becoming extinct.
Land clearing blamed for koala deaths
In his 10 years of being a wildlife volunteer on the Sunshine Coast, Mr Jean has noticed a huge change in land clearing due to overpopulation and development.
“Four years ago there were 17 koalas at the Noosa National Park, now there are only three left,” he said.
With two of the remaining koalas male and only one female, the prospect of breeding is at huge risk.
Losing two females from the area at the weekend has made the extinction of Noosa’s koalas an even bigger threat, particularly with chlamydia preventing many of the animals from breeding.
“They are also suffering from climate change. Their eucalyptus leaves are not getting enough moisture that they need,” Mr Jean said.
“Warmer temperatures are also adding to the problem, with Australian wildlife suffering more from the heat in recent years.”
Koalas at threat of extinction
Mr Jean said koalas bring in an estimated $3 billion every year for tourism across the country from international visitors wanting to see a koala in the wild.
Volunteers have already started planting 1500 eucalyptus trees in a five-year-project made possible by a $3.5 million joint project by the Noosa Park Association, Queensland Government and the Noosa Council, according to Mr Jean.
But he said more needed to be done to help the koalas now.
A meeting with Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington is scheduled at the national park next Monday to try to work out what can be done to help protect the remaining koalas.
Mr Jean is also hoping for more road signage and lighting along the koala corridors.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to lose these two girls’ lives before they do something,” he said.
He urged motorists approaching koala corridors and travelling through wooded areas to drive slowly and carefully, and to approach with caution – especially at dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active.
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