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Koalas extinct? Hardly. ‘Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas is wrong’

By Jo Nova

Since Europeans arrived Koalas have been booming and busting

The calls were out this week saying that koalas will be extinct in New South Wales in 30 years. But they didn’t mention that Koalas thrive and multiply so fast that in the right conditions scientists talk of ‘plagues’. On Kangaroo Island last year, there were so many koalas, the South Australian government has been trying to sterilize or relocate thousands of them over the last twenty years.  Periodically scientists even discuss whether we have to cull them (the horror!).

They’ve survived twenty megafires in 200 years. They can recover. Ponder that Koalas were only introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1930′s but by the 1990′s there were 14,000 of them and even though they are considered a tourism asset they are also considered a problem and pest too.

“Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas, is wrong” — Vic Jurskis

Photo, Koala eating young gum leaves.

Koalas favorite snack  |      Photo by pen_ash

Vic Jurskis is a veteran forester and fire expert who studied them for years. He’s written The Great Koala Scam, Green propaganda, junk science government waste and cruelty.

Jurskis estimates that thanks to European settlers there are more koalas now than there were 250 years ago.

He describes how koalas have been booming and busting for two centuries. Before the first fleet arrived, koalas were so rare that the new settlers didn’t even see one for fifteen years! But after the indigenous cool burns programs stopped, dense forests grew which were choc-full of tender new shoots that koalas love to eat. So koala populations would flourish and boom right up until a fire wiped them out. In other areas farmers cleared land, but the “paddock” trees would get sick and resprout continuously, which also worked out pretty well for koalas. So koalas boomed in the valleys too. Sooner or later a drought would come and the valley koalas would starve and get sick themselves.

Jurskis recommends we use koala rescue funds to start doing better forest management with cool burns so the megafires don’t incinerate the next oversupply of koalas. It’s a man-made cycle of pain and suffering.

You’d think The Guardian and The ABC would be able to give us a more rounded view, especially since they covered the boom stories and the Koala Wars.  Here’s the ABC in 2002:

Scientists say the only solution to this crisis is to begin culling Koalas. Against the scientists are people who believe we need to be creating more habitats or the koalas. The Australian Koala Foundation are planting wildlife corridors to link koala habitats. But the scientists say this is just going to feed the problem – wherever the koalas have been introduced they thrive and eventually destroy their habitat.

Last year gave up sterilizing them to stop the plague on Kangaroo Island:

Koala and kangaroo culling considered as numbers become ‘overabundant’

A report from a parliamentary inquiry has recommended the state’s environment minister make an immediate decision to declare koalas, western grey kangaroos, long-nosed fur seals and little corellas overabundant in some areas. The committee heard that sterilisation of the Kangaroo Island koala population had had little success.“Population numbers on the Island continue to rise and their impacts are threatening its biodiversity,” the report says. — The Guardian, 12th July 2019

This year, plagues in Victoria too:

Blue gum plantations in south west Victoria fuelling huge koala populations

Eucalyptus trees provide the main food source for koalas, so it’s no surprise huge numbers of them are gravitating to the vast blue gum plantations in south west Victoria. So much so that landowners nearby are reporting koala populations are growing to “plague proportions”. New research shows the skyrocketing koala populations are becoming unsustainable and damaging vegetation. — ABC February 2020

Koalas on Kangaroo Island went from zero to plague proportions in just 60 years

From a blog called ConvictCreations, we get a colorful history of how South Australia dealt with the dilemma of culling cute koalas:

Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1930s. By the 1990s, their populations had reached almost 14,000. Although they were the jewel in the Kangaroo Island’s ecotourism crown, some scientists believed they had no right to be on the island. According to David Paton, an environmental scientist from the University of Adelaide, there was a hierarchy of animals rights on Kangaroo Island, and the koalas’ rights were close to the bottom. In his own words:

“You are going to cause major problems for other species — other species that are endemic to the island. Those things have a right, a greater right, to be here than koalas.”

As a compromise between the environmental scientists that wanted to kill them and the tourism operators that wanted to conserve them, between 1997 and 2005, the South Australian government paid for the sterilisation of 3,400 adult koalas and relocated a further 1,000 to the mainland. Each sterilisation cost around $140. Needless to say, the remaining koalas kept breeding and environmental scientists kept asking for more money to manage the koala problem and run public “education campaigns” about the problem. For whatever reason, the government then decided there wasn’t a problem and ceased funding. Mysteriously, the koalas then developed a disease which dropped their populations by half.

They’ve survived megafires, drought and disease. Jurskis uses the term “irrupting” which means a sudden increase in an animal population.

Bushfires and Koalas: It’s Not That Simple

Vic Jurskis, Quadrant, 27th Feb, 2020

Before Australia’s fire regime changed, koalas were naturally rare because they eat tender, juicy and nutritious new leaves which are a rare commodity in healthy, mature eucalypt forests. Europeans didn’t see a live koala until 15 years after they arrived in Australia. The Sydney Gazette of August 21, 1803, reported that “its food consists solely of gum leaves, in the choice of which it is excessively nice”. This was common knowledge for more than a century.

In total, there were 20 megafires in 200 years. Koalas are still there in unnaturally high densities. There is an average of one koala per three hectares anywhere that monkey gums, blue gums or yellow stringybarks grow.

… koalas irrupted in the dense young forests that grew up after the demise of the Yowenjerre people. Koalas have persisted for 150 years despite heavy clearing and repeated megafires. The experts claim that clearing and hunting caused extreme declines and loss of genetic diversity in Victoria’s koalas.  However, the South Gippsland population is supposed to be “of high conservation significance” as a population retaining its naturally diverse gene pool.

The $3 million being handed out by Minister Ley would better be spent reintroducing mild fire to areas burnt at high intensities, before the scrub bounces back. This was the recommendation of traditional burning expert Victor Steffensen at the Koala Inquiry on December 9 (p. 27).

While-ever our leaders continue to take advice from green academics and bureaucrats, emergency services generalissimos and misguided children, instead of people who know and love the land, our future will get progressively sadder and badder.

Vic Jurskis, a veteran forester and fire expert, is the author of the just-published The Great Koala Scam: green propaganda, junk science, government waste & cruelty to animalsIt can be ordered here

Inquiry into Koala Populations, Parliament House, NSW, December 9th, 2019 [PDF]

Vic Jurskis explained the situation late last year to the NSW Parliament. From page 7 onwards:

I am one of very few who have studied natural koalas. They live in large home ranges with thousands of trees, so you do not see them. Healthy old trees mostly have poor, hard, dry leaves that cannot sustain koalas. They move long distances to find fresh browse. Explorers did not see them in the valleys because they were not there. John Gould wrote that they could rarely be detected, even with the help of Aborigines. After settlers cleared paddocks, sowed pastures and disrupted Aboriginal burning, koalas erupted because dense young forests with millions of new shoots grew up in the foothills. Paddock trees got sick and started turning over new shoots all the time, so koalas invaded the valleys. The fur industry was a response.

In the Federation drought, trees were not able to keep reshooting, so koalas suffered starvation and chlamydiosis. They died out in the valleys but they survived in the forests. After World War II, timber cutters got chainsaws and tractors. Intensive harvesting created dense young forests and koalas bred up again. Then we stopped burning and grazing and locked up most of the forests. Trees got sick again; now koalas and scrub are erupting through declining forests—both regrowth and old growth. The dense population in the Pilliga crashed again in the millennium drought, whereas low-density populations continued to erupt.

Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas, including NSW Koala Strategy, is wrong because it is based on denial of history and unwitting studies of unsustainably dense populations. NGOs and national parks service rely on misinformation to support fundraising, political campaigns and land grabs. The Senate inquiry swallowed it whole. When Mr Singh, who is now the member for Coffs Harbour, called it out, AAP FactCheck said his statement was false. They quoted the ridiculous Senate report and World Wildlife Fund report about millions of koalas in 1788.

You have got my ecological history. It was submitted, refereed and accepted as a review—the only reasonably comprehensive review of koalas that has ever been published. After they announced its imminent publication, CSIRO rebadged it as an opinion piece, implying a low standard. When I challenged AAP, they used this to deny the facts. But I am here today to share the facts with you. As I wrote in my submission in July, denial of history leads us to set up reserves of dying trees and scrub for unsustainable populations. Then they face lingering death in droughts or incineration in megafires. You have got five photos of a koala that I saw crossing the highway south of Eden Wednesday before last, where Dr Lunney says they are extinct. I will use them to illustrate the problem with koalas and fires. Thank you.

Here’s the nub of it:

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: You are very critical of the NSW Koala Strategy. What is wrong with it, in your view?

Mr JURSKIS: It aims to stabilise and then increase populations, when there are already too many koalas because of the unhealthy, chronically declining forest. That is the same reason why we are having uncontrollable wildfires: It is because of the structure of the forest. As Victor Steffensen says, it is upside-down country: It is thinning on top and thick underneath. I would like to refer to those photos that you have got. For example, the first photo—if you have a look at the ground you can see it is all litter and dead wood. There is no grass or herbs or anything. That is where all the biodiversity is in a healthy forest: It is in the ground layer and the small animals that rely on that layer. It is not there; it has been choked out by scrub.

So you have got litter on the ground, and it is continuous with scrub in the middle and it is continuous with the thinning canopy on the top. You get a fire in that, it is uncontrollable because in severe conditions you get fire storms and ember showers that can be tens of kilometres in front of the fire front. That is why fires are uncontrollable. The only thing that is unprecedented about these fires we are having at the moment is the amount of fuel in the bush. It is right through Australia; there is three-dimensionally continuous fuel and declining trees wherever you go because we no longer use mild burning. In fact, in New South Wales it is illegal to manage the bush properly by burning it frequently and mildly. It is against the regulations to do it properly.

One MP has trouble grasping how rare koalas were:

The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: Thank you for your submission. I am from the Blue Mountains and there are reports of one or two koala sightings up at Blackheath and Lapstone, but just one or two sightings. If your hypothesis is right, would we not be seeing a bounce back of significant numbers of koalas in a habitat that did have thousands and thousands of koalas up until the turn of the last century?

Mr JURSKIS: No, it did not have thousands and thousands of koalas. That is exactly my point.

Mr JURSKIS: A natural koala population has a density of about one koala per 100 hectares.

The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: There are a few thousand hectares, though.

Mr JURSKIS: Yes. The first eruption of koalas was noted by surveyor Govett, who Govetts Leap is named after. He described them as numerous in the dense stringybark forests on the Hawkesbury and on the Coxs River side of the Blue Mountains. Those were new forests; they grew up when we disrupted Aboriginal burning.

The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD: But we are not seeing evidence of an erupting koala population in the Blue Mountains.

Mr JURSKIS: We are. If you can see koalas, it means they are erupting. Naturally, you do not see them because you have got one koala per tens of thousands of trees. A natural koala population is invisible. When you can see them—like, for example, that koala in the photo there; that is in an area where koalas are supposed to be extinct. They are actually erupting.

There’s a lot more reading at both the last two articles — on Quadrant and the Parliamentary PDF.

Or buy Vic’s Book! The Great Koala Scam, Green propaganda, junk science government waste and cruelty.

Things you need to know about Australian megafires and forest management:


h/t to CFACT and Climate Depot. Thanks to Pat, Beowulf, TedM, PeterW, GeeAye. (Does anyone know where Pat is?)