Koalas are packing their bags and moving out of Moreton Bay as humans clear urban and nearby rural bushland for new housing estates.
The koalas that remain on the suburban fringes are vulnerable to two unpleasant by-products of urban living, vehicle strikes and domestic dog attacks. According to Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science, nearly 500 koalas are hospitalised in southeast Queensland annually with injuries from dogs or vehicles.
“...for me, there is no better feeling than the satisfaction of being able to provide prompt medical care to sick and injured koalas and release those you have cared for back into the wild.”
In addition, koalas suffer ever higher hospital admission rates with diseases such as Chlamydia, which may be linked to the stresses of living near human activity. Koalas also contract a range of cancers, just like humans.
Fortunately for these furry victims of our expanding suburbia, people like Wanda (aka Vanda) Grabowski are taking action.
Wanda, who has been working on the battle-front with koala rescue and conservation groups since 1993, began her volunteer work at the Moggill Koala Hospital. She knows koalas well, having volunteered at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital for over 10 years. Wanda also works with Queensland Koala Crusaders Inc, among others.
She helped establish a charitable not-for-profit incorporated association called Koala Action Incorporated (KAI) in 2004. She has also picked up a Bachelor of Science qualification along her koala education journey.
Wanda describes her volunteer non-profit organisation as action based and committed to ‘doing’ rather than paying lip service to koala conservation.
Wanda and her volunteers are certainly prepared to get their hands dirty for the cause, planting koala food trees and rehabilitating habitat at various sites in recent years, including the Williamson Road Park at Morayfield, the YMCA Camp Warrawee Bundalong Replanting Project in Joyner, and along the riparian corridor of Burpengary Creek. Loss and fragmentation of habitat is the number one cause of declining koala numbers, according to Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES).
While Wanda gets physical working with her team regularly, she is also heavily involved in the bigger koala picture in southeast Queensland, which invariably takes in a certain amount of politics. She spends much time and energy educating, consulting and advocating for koalas with businesses, local government and the community for better koala outcomes as local suburbs expand.
Wanda says her work is gratifying. She is pleased to see a greater awareness of wildlife conservation in recent years, with councils and land developers now paying more than mere lip service to conservation issues.
In fact, she was contacted by a prominent property developer not long ago, who asked KAI to help with a new development in Moreton Bay that was going in next to an established koala habitat.
”We were able to consult and put in place some good solid plans to improve outcomes,” Wanda said. “This is real progress compared to some of the old-fashioned attitudes of years ago.”
While Wanda spends some of her time in the company of the powerful and influential in business and government, she has no trouble keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground as she works on the everyday survival challenges facing her furry friends.
“I have been involved in the rescue of koalas for over fifteen years and raised koala joeys from my home for 24 years, and for me, there is no better feeling than the satisfaction of being able to provide prompt medical care to sick and injured koalas and release those you have cared for back into the wild,” she says.
The koala, Queensland’s faunal emblem, is now officially endangered in many parts of Australia, including southeast Queensland. This is due to habitat loss and fragmentation because of the ingress of humans and the recent destruction of habitat due to catastrophic bushfires and drought.
Wanda says the koala breeding season is coming up (from July to January), meaning the marsupials move around more and are at greater risk when crossing roads and backyards.
“Residents can minimise the risks of injury or death to native koalas by slowing down when driving and keeping their dogs restrained, particularly at night when koalas are predominantly on the move,” she says.
For more information on koala conservation and habitat rehabilitation in Moreton Bay, Wanda can be contacted at Koala Action Inc at koalaactioninc.org