Koalas are under threat in Queensland, with one frightening estimate suggesting there may be as few as 4,000 individuals left in the South East of the state.
North of the border, koalas are smaller and lighter in colour than their counterparts in NSW, VIC and SA, and one particularly cute one is doing his best to ensure the survival of the population.
Arlo is an 18-month old male, who loves a cuddle, and as you can see from the video below, dishes out no shortage of sass. He’s also the star of the new NRMA Insurance ad and his $50,000 appearance fee has been donated to fund the planting of new gum trees.
Up to 80 percent of koala habitat in Queensland has been lost, and Jarrod Schenk, the CEO of Wildlife HQ and Arlo’s handler, telling Yahoo Lifestyle that if we don’t act now, this iconic Australian animal will not be around for future generations.
“Australia wide, they predict we’ve gone from two million to about 80,000 koalas,” he says, “They reckon there could be only about 4,000 left in South East Queensland, and we lose up to 500 a year.”
The numbers are frightening, but there are three critical things Jarrod says we can do to help protect the koalas, and the first pertains to pet owners.
Watch your cats and dogs
Cats and dogs can be deadly for koalas as they have a low immune system so even the smallest bite from a pet can prove lethal.
Jarrod says, “Cats should never be allowed out at night because they’re a predator, and dogs, it’s a matter of keeping an eye on them.”
“If they’re barking, know why they’re barking and if you let them off leash (during the day) make sure you know where they are.”
Stop for roadkill
When driving through areas signposted as having koalas, Jarrod urges us to stop and investigate if you see dead or injured wildlife.
“If there’s any lump on the side of the road, people should report it,” he says, “Whether it looks like a koala or a wallaby.”
“If a koala gets hit by a car, a joey can live in the pouch for nearly 48 hours after, it’s in mum’s pouch waiting to be rescued. And every single one does count.”
So if you see something, you should still call your local animal rescue line.
Plant and protect
If you can, plant a food tree for koalas, Jarrod says, just check with your local nursery as to what variety of gum tree the koalas in your area enjoy eating, as koalas are fussy creatures.
But the biggest responsibility falls to people who have gum trees on their private property.
“We’ve cleared 80 percent of koala habitat, and of the remaining habitat, most of it is on private property, so people have a lot of control over whether those trees are cleared because they’re on their land,” Jarrod explains.
“What we’re going to face if we don’t save the trees is local extinctions, so different areas will have small populations go extinct. So we really need to preserve those trees and keep them linked, because otherwise they become fragmented and the koalas can’t get between the fragments and if they try, they face are cats and dogs.”
But there is hope
Jarrod has been touring Sydney with Arlo to raise further awareness and is positive about the public’s reception of the message.
“Everyone’s getting on board and realising that we’ve got to act now,” he says.
“It’s a domino effect, the more people are hearing, the more people are caring because everyone loves koalas, you don’t meet anyone who goes oh I hate koalas’.”
Got a story tip or just want to get in touch? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or sign up to our daily newsletter here.