Few native animals are at greater risk of forest fires in Australia than the iconic and beloved koala.
As many as 8400 koalas are believed to have perished in the fires in NSW alone, with these numbers continue to rise due to injured animals that will not survive the winter.
Animal rescue groups such as WIRES and Koala Rescue Queensland are currently treating hundreds of injured animals that have been located in fire-ravaged eastern states.
But while things may appear grim for Australia’s most famous native animal, the news is not all bleak.
The building of a rail line in south-east Queensland in an area north of Brisbane has seen the intervention of humans save a colony of the koalas from extinction.
In this area due to tracking of the colony, sick animals are picked-up as soon as the fall ill to sexually transmitted and contact diseases and treated at a designated koala hospital.
The colony is not just surviving but multiplying with more than 20 joeys born in the past year and adult deaths declining.
The comprehensive koala tracking program followed construction of a 12.6km rail line, linking Redcliffe, north of Brisbane to the main Petrie rail line with the removal of 62ha of koala habitat and 21,000 trees.
The planting of 25,000 new trees, tracking device on many of the animals, and the intervention of the koala hospital, has now saved the colony.
While human interference and development in sensitive areas is often cast as the cause of the death and decline of koala colonies, this experiment in human intervention is touted as a sign that more pro-active efforts to save koalas could be for the future of saving one of the world’s most identifiable and loveable marsupials.