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The Beat of Gaia's Heart

A redesign, a potential move for koalas, and a first -- this blog!

This morning I've been working on a long-overdue overhaul of my website, both design and content. I hope you'll find it easier to read and to navigate -- if not, please do let me know!

You may have been seeing the headlines in recent weeks about the precarious position of the koala -- that in thirty years it may be extinct in the wild. This is pretty distressing news, but considering all the threats to their existence -- development, disease, stress, traffic, and attacks by household pets -- it's hardly surprising. I wrote in my newsletter some time back about the fragmentation of the koala's environment -- how it gets chopped up and becomes ever smaller, with ranges unconnected by safe passages for animals on the move in search of new habitat. This is a huge problem, since if koalas can't reach -- or even locate -- a new range of trees they can't survive.

Compounding this problem is the fact that when koalas are injured in their home range, in Queensland they are required to be put back where they were found once they've recovered from their injuries. If safer ranges are available, it's currently against the law to put the animals there instead. In many cases, this means putting an animal back into a region bounded by busy highways, almost ensuring that the cars will have another shot at killing it.

Today there was an article in the Sunday Mail that researchers and green groups are going after this practice in the hope of having it changed. After all, what sense does it make to rescue an injured animal and nurse it back to health, only to put it back in the same environment that injured it in the first place?

A pilot research program is challenging this conventional "wisdom" by relocating a few animals from a colony of koalas threatened by a housing development in Coomera to a less-developed area in Canungra. With the aid of radio transmitters, they will study the animals' movements and how they adapt to the new habitat. If they remain in the new location, the rest of the colony -- there are about 100 altogether -- will be relocated too.

This makes enormous sense. If habitat is dangerous, why return animals there? If you check out the list of "patients" on the website of the Australian Wildlife Hospital, you'll see that many of the koalas treated there have been injured more than once. Restoring them to the wild after rehabilitation is definitely to be desired. But restoring them to a safer location is also essential -- otherwise, someday soon, they may only be a memory.
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