When wildlife rescuer Emma Meddows received a call to save a koala and her joey that were hit by a car in south-west Sydney, it was a scenario that was all too familiar.
- The urban sprawl threatening koalas has prompted the formation of the Sydney Basin Koala Network
- It has released a survey showing 84 per cent of respondents believe koala habitat should be more strongly protected
- A spokesperson says the group is pushing for a Sydney koala green belt to stop the urban sprawl
Fortunately, a member of the public saw the koala run up a tree after it was struck.
They picked up the “palm-sized” joey from the road and cared for it until a volunteer from the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) could arrive.
“Had he not been picked up off the road he would have been either hit by a car himself or probably died cold on the ground,” Ms Meddows said.
“The rescuer’s attention to detail was fantastic.”
Ms Meddows said the key when rescuing wildlife struck by a car was to act quickly.
“Have a look at your surroundings, know where you are, call a wildlife organization and get some help straight away,” she said.
New network for koala protection
In this instance, the swift action of the rescuer at Rosemeadow, south of Campbelltown, together with follow-up work to reunite the mother and joey, ensured their survival despite the mother’s injury.
The case highlighted the growing number of koala rescues occurring on Sydney’s outskirts.
It was one of the reasons WIRES teamed up with Sydney’s Total Environment Center to form the Sydney Basin Koala Network.
Dedicated to koala conservation, the network extends from Newcastle in the north, west to the Blue Mountains and south to Nowra.
Spokesperson Jeff Angel said current koala protection measures being implemented by government and private developers were entirely insufficient.
He said the network aimed to train residents as citizen scientists to help advocate for koalas.
“Many people are surprised to know there are koalas on the edge of Sydney and on the edge of our big coastal towns,” Mr Angel said.
“When they find out we have koalas so close to us — and knowing that koalas are an endangered population — they want to do more to protect them.”
Push for koala ‘green belt’
As part of the network’s launch, results of a 1,000-person survey were released, which included residents of both metropolitan and regional areas.
It showed 84 per cent believed koala habitats should be protected, while just 1 in 10 people thought koala habitats should be used for economic activities.
“One of the things we are pushing really hard is [for] a Sydney koala green belt so that we can put a stop to the urban-sprawl incursion into their precious habitat,” Mr Angel said. said.
“There is ice [an] enormous level of support for that.
“People also feel that miners, loggers, urban developers have too much sway on decision-making about the future of that habitat.”
Ms Meddows says as Sydney’s urban sprawl extends south into locations like Appin and Wilton where healthy chlamydia-free koala colonies live, the demand for rescues grows.
“Five, six years ago there weren’t many sightings of koalas in Appin,” she said.
“Now, I responded to nearly 70 sightings of koalas in Appin last year alone.
“We got our first koala crossing sign back in 2016 after a koala walked into the local pub.”
Now such sightings are a regular occurrence.
“They are running up and down people’s roads and cul de sacs and main roads — not just necessarily on the edges of bushland but coming into suburbia as well,” Ms Meddows said.
As the population in these areas grows rapidly, Ms Meddows says so does the need to spread awareness and educate residents on the best ways to ensure habitat protection for koala survival.