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Climate change putting the heat on koalas


How climate change is putting the heat on our national icon’s survival

It may be the “rock star” of Australian wildlife species, but the koala - like many other animals - is struggling under the impacts of climate change. 

Away from the gaze of an adoring public, the stark reality is that in addition to loss of habitat, the warming earth is wreaking havoc on koalas – right down to sucking what little nutrition exists from their favourite food.   

Recently classified as endangered across the eastern seaboard in NSW, Queensland and the ACT, the focus is urgently shifting to building resilient koala populations throughout those states as well as other parts of the country.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, 30 per cent of Australia’s remaining koalas have been lost in just three years – and as much as 41 per cent in NSW and the ACT.  

While eucalyptus forests have vanished at an alarming rate across the country in the past 200 years, new threats to the survival of our national icon are emerging.

Read on to find out more and how you can help ensure its survival.

An infographic on koalas, containing a fact file about their habits

Climbing down out of the trees and into danger  

Altered rainfall patterns and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to climate change has been shown to change the amount of protein, and water, in gum leaves while also elevating the level of toxic tannins.

Hungry, thirsty and desperate, koalas are risking life and limb by climbing down out of their trees in search of food and water.

Because their habitats are now so fragmented, they’re being forced to cover long distances – leaving them vulnerable to predators including dogs as well as getting in the way of passing vehicles.

There’s also another major threat to their survival.

With climate change fuelling increasingly extreme bushfires in Australia, koalas are directly affected.    

While they can hit speeds of up to 30km/h over short distances, they’re relatively slow-moving.

It makes them particularly vulnerable in bushfires – combined with the fact that eucalyptus trees burn quickly and intensely.

According to the Victorian Government’s just-released draft Koala Management Strategy, the 2019/2020 bushfires also highlighted the lack of vets in Victoria with the specialist expertise needed to treat burnt and injured wildlife.

A composite image of a koala and text about wildlife experts working to ensure the diversity of a koala population

What can you do to help?

Ideally located throughout Victoria, Carbon Landscapes is currently putting a range of programs in place to help ensure the grim situation in the northern states isn’t repeated.

The short of it is that we’re not waiting for what’s happened in Queensland and NSW.

Our Stony Rises property in Victoria’s west, incorporating 160 hectares of pristine woodland

and supporting an already well-established koala population, is perfectly suited for this project.

The land has been managed for conservation for more than 50 years and is a remarkable example of prime Australian wilderness.

Together with an abundant supply of manna gums – which are favoured by koalas - one of its most valuable attributes is its connectivity to surrounding private bushland, offering extensive sanctuary.

Over the next 12 months we’ll be working closely with wildlife experts to ensure the strength and diversity of the local population’s gene pool is maintained.

At the same time, we’re looking at a range of other arboreal species to ensure the ecological balance is maintained.

Did you know?

  • Koalas differ in size, colour and shape across Australia. Those in Queensland are smaller and have less fur than their relatives in southern states. An adult Queensland male weigh 6-8kg, while in Victoria adult males are generally around 12kg
  • Because they perch themselves between the forks of branches high in the trees, they have evolved a strong cartilage at the end of their curved spines to make them feel comfortable
  •  While they are known to be fussy eaters, with fewer than 50 of the more than 700 eucalypt species taking their fancy. They are especially fond of the manna gum, which is found in abundance at Carbon Landscapes’ Stony Rises property
  • They do however much their way through about 500g of leaves a day.
  • While the leaves are poisonous to most animals, koalas’ digestive systems have specially adapted
  • Koalas are known to sleep up to 18 hours a day and are mostly awake at night
  • They’re solitary creatures and live about 10-12 years in the wild 

It’s time to get involved  

To bolster biodiversity at the Stony Rises as well as explore the many ways we are financing conservation outcomes, become a Carbon Landscapes member  ocontact us  to find out how your organisation can directly sponsor a program. 

In the spirit of reconciliation Carbon Landscapes acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
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