Forget chocolate bunnies – make this coming Easter all about real koalas. One of Australia’s most iconic* native animals, the koala is officially classified as “endangered”* after widespread bushfires, drought, floods and land clearing.
Aussie Ark president Tim Faulkner said the sheer size and force of the 2019/2020 Black Summer fires meant the number of koalas lost would “forever remain unknown”.
“But when you have canopy* fires of the intensity that were seen and 80 per cent of koala habitat was burnt, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out a lot of koalas lost their lives and habitat* – it’s massive,” Mr Faulkner said.
While habitat loss was a grim factor in the upgrade to endangered, Mr Faulkner said koalas were already on a “crash course” to extinction in NSW by 2050.
“The fires have done nothing but speed that up,” he said. “Can you imagine if koalas were extinct in the wild? It doesn’t even seem real, but it is.”
Australia has one of the highest numbers of national parks in the world, but species like koalas are still disappearing from the very places that are supposed to enable them to run wild.
Despite conserving the parks, pieces of the larger puzzle are missing. Failing to protect the resident native animals in those parks from threats like feral cats and foxes has led to Australia having the worst mammal extinction rate on Earth, according to Mr Faulkner.
“We’ve lost 40 small mammals to extinction in the last 200 years – that’s more than the rest of the world put together,” he said.
“Koalas are one of those species up there facing those threats and prospectively extinction – at least in the wild.
“Our wildest of places – that is, our national parks – are safe havens for feral pests. And that’s not good enough.”
“Koalas are iconic, so are (Tasmanian) devils, the platypus and echidna, but you go through all of them and devils are endangered, koalas are endangered, the platypus is near-threatened,” Mr Faulkner said.
“They’re uniquely Australian. You lose them from here, they’re gone. There’s greater need and scope for feral* pest control, disease understanding, fire and weed management – this all needs radical upscaling.”
As well as directly protecting koala habitat and providing ongoing fire and weed management, Aussie Ark has planted 22,000 trees of a planned 110,000, including those all-important eucalyptus trees for koala food and fodder.
The animal conservation* charity has also teamed up with Coles to help save everyone’s favourite tree-hugger with a free downloadable children’s book.
The Picky Little Koala tells the story of Kelly the koala’s journey to find the perfect home so she can fill her fussy, furry little belly.
For every free download between now and 19 April, Coles will donate $1 to Aussie Ark’s koala conservation efforts, up to $100,000.
Mr Faulkner hopes parents across Australia will share the book over Easter with the nation’s budding wildlife warriors.
“Please grab the book,” he said. ”By getting it for free, you’re directly helping a koala.”
An easy way to entertain kids over Easter, Coles chief marketing officer Lisa Ronson said the book would assist in koala recovery for future generations to come.
“Particularly after seeing the devastating impact of bushfires and recent flooding on native animal species, what better way than to share the story of Kelly the koala to remind everyone of the importance of protecting our wildlife?” she said.
HOW TO HAVE A NATIVE ANIMAL EASTER
- For every person who downloads a free copy of The Picky Little Koala from Apple Books before April 19, Aussie Ark gets $1 from Coles, up to $100,000
- Share chocolate bilbies with family and friends instead of chocolate bunnies and take the opportunity to share what you know about the dangers our native animals face. After all, rabbits are an introduced species and wreak havoc across the habitat of our native fauna
- Feral cats and foxes are responsible for 90 per cent of Australia’s mammal extinctions, according to Aussie Ark’s Mr Faulkner. Easter is a great time to write a letter to your local member demanding more action on behalf of our native animals
- Get to know our natives, many of which are endangered or critically endangered. Most Australian wildlife is found here and nowhere else on Earth. That’s something special! Koalas, the platypus, echidnas, bandicoots, potoroos, quolls, Tasmanian devils, numbats, Gilbert’s potoroos, orange-bellied parrots, night parrots … the list goes on. Discover where you can see them and learn more these school holidays!
- There are less than 1000 northern hairy-nosed wombats – why not challenge your family to a round of native animal trivia over Easter?
- iconic: important representation, very famous, popular in unique to a place, person or time
- endangered: at serious risk of extinction
- canopy: covering of branches and leaves that spreads out at the top of trees in the bush
- habitat: place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows
- feral: existing in a wild state, including animals like feral cats that were previously domestic
- conservation: protecting Earth’s natural resources for current and future generations
- What percentage of koala habitat was burnt during the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires?
- Aussie Ark’s Tim Faulkner said koalas were on a “crash course” to what, where and when?
- How many trees has Aussie Ark planted and what is the planned total?
- What four areas need “radical upscaling” to help save the koala, according to Mr Faulkner?
- How much money will be raised for koalas if enough people download the free e-book?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Write your own story
What do you think the story of The Picky Little Koala would be about? Write a story using this title. Add pictures or illustrations, too!
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Arts
How do you think Aussie Ark should spend the money that is donated by Coles? Use the information in the story to write a list of specific things that Aussie Ark could do to help protect koalas. Next to each item in your list, write a sentence explaining why you chose this.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
My favourite native animal
Write a description of the senses poem about your favourite native Australian animal. Describe what it looks like (sight), would feel like (touch), what it eats (taste), what noises it makes (could be a sound it makes from its mouth, or a sound it makes as it moves), and what might it use its sense of smell for?
When you are writing the poem, see if you can put all the information in like pieces of the puzzle. Don’t tell the reader who the animal is until the very last piece.
Use your VCOP skills to capture the audience’s attention. Focus on the structure of your sentences to hide the animal’s identity until the end.
Have fun and Happy Easter!