Recent media coverage has created confusion and debate around the plight of our precious koalas. We’re here to dispel those myths, and show you why our mission to save them is more important – and timely – than ever.
We invite you to read an article that puts the koala’s danger in doubt, published in the Weekend Australian 25/11/17, under the headline: ‘The great koala scam’: Falling numbers not a crisis, says expert. After reading the opinions put forward as fact in the article, in particular by Mr. Vic Jurskis, I’ve realised I need to set the record straight.
As you may know, in September 2018 I’ll be setting off on my mission to become the oldest person to sail around the world, solo, non-stop and unassisted. I’m not doing it to break a record, but to raise the $1 million that we need to save the koalas. It isn’t something I, at 82, would be doing if the species wasn’t on the edge of extinction, but I see it as their only chance.
“Since we colonized Australia, we have treated them like they are disposable and destroyed vast areas of their natural habitat. They are down to just 40,000 living in the wild. It’s this number that’s put under scrutiny in the Weekend Australian article, so I’ll start out by stating some facts straight from the Australian Koala Foundation.
- At least 8 million koalas were killed for the fur trade and their pelts shipped to London, the USA and Canada between 1888 and 1927.
- Between 1888 and July 1918 over 4 million koala furs passed through London’s auction houses. The records don’t cover 1911 – 1914 and no stats were provided for Canada, which means the total is actually much higher than we can prove.
- In 1919, 2 million pelts were shipped to the USA, followed by another 2 million in 1924.
- The slaughter saw koalas hunted to functional extinction in South Australia by 1912. By the 1920s, koalas were reduced to a few hundred individuals and just 1000 in Victoria.
- Queensland retained large numbers of the species, but in 1927, in the month-long hunt known as Black August, more than 800,000 of Queensland’s koalas were killed.
What these facts, taken straight from the archives after extensive research by the AKF, prove to us is that human interference has contributed to the death of millions of koalas for their fur. So when Jurskis stated “there are more koalas than there were at the time of European settlement” it seems that he completely ignored the amount of koalas as recorded by historians, going as far back as the 1880s.
A misinterpretation of a crisis
In the article, Jurkis refers to the issue of koala’s becoming extinct as something that has been ‘misinterpreted as a crisis.’ There are too many areas in Australia where it’s undeniably a crisis, for his statement to be ignored. I can think of many examples, but one in particular sticks out in my mind. The last time I spoke to Dr. Steve Phillips, one of Australia’s leading koala experts, he told me the koala community at Black Rocks in Northern NSW is down to about 5 koalas and not expected to survive for the next 5 years. If that’s not a ‘crisis’ for the Black Rocks koala community, then my definition of crisis must be wrong.
For now, I’d like to give Jurskis the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he’s been misrepresented in the article. He might have been referring to the koalas in a particular area that he has researched, and never intended for his statement about the koala population to be interpreted for the whole of Australia. I do question, if that’s the case, why he never corrected the journalist who penned the article. Doesn’t leaving it uncorrected raise doubts about all of Jurski’s other conclusions when there is clear proof to the contrary?
I have done my own research and have reasons for believing that the viable and stable population of koalas in Australia today stands at about 40,000. I also have plenty to say back to the other statements and conclusions raised by Jurskis in the Weekend Australian article. In my opinion, they lack substance and credibility, and put the most important thing in jeopardy; saving the koalas. One thing we can all agree on, as was stated by Bill Phillips – koalas are “the little Australians we’d all hate to lose.”
“The little Australians we’d all hate to lose.”
There’s a lot more I can say about the article but I’ll stop there and conclude by saying we are not here to win an argument. This isn’t about being right or wrong. We are here to do what we can to help save our koalas from extinction.
We need to remember the purpose of Sail 4 Wildlife is to achieve a viable, workable solution for our koalas. After all, can you imagine Australia without them?