A Christmas Koala

koala 010This Christmas we had a delightful visitor at Pilyara – a very friendly and curious Koala in a pear tree (instead of a partridge!). After kindly posing for the camera, he soon moved on to a more appropriate gum tree. In the early days of settlement, Koalas were locally common in the surrounding Messmate and Mountain Ash forests. But in the early 1900s these iconic marsupials were heavily hunted for their fur, which was exported to Europe. Timber-cutting also became rampant. Consequently, Koala numbers crashed.

koala 002In the 1920’s, a man named Frederick Lewis was the Chief Inspector of Fisheries and Game in  Victoria. An early conservationist, Lewis began a large-scale program to remove vulnerable Koalas to ‘safe havens’, where they could breed up and be eventually restored to their former range. Since then, thousands of Koalas have been relocated to over 250 release sites across Victoria, in one of the most sustained and extensive wildlife reintroduction programs ever undertaken. The nearby Bunyip Forest is one of those release sites.

koala insideOur adorable visitor is a result of Frederick Lewis’ vision. His orange ear tag shows he was translocated from Snake Island in Western Port Bay. It’s very heartening to see Koalas reclaiming their former range after a century-long absence. A neighbour even found an adventurous young Koala hanging out on their back door! Let’s hope these pioneering Koalas will be the first of many, to call Pilyara home once again.






Grief and Shame

Not Western Black Rhinos, sadly ...

Last week marked another scathing indictment of humanity’s indifference to other life on our planet – the official declaration of the extinction of the Western Black Rhino by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The announcement was fittingly made on Remembrance Day. In its latest assessment of the situation, the IUCN says two other sub-species of rhinoceros also are close to extinction. All due to the ignorant belief that rhino horn has some magical, medicinal powers.

Although predictable, it still feels surreal to me – that a species of charismatic megafauna, such as this rhino, could become extinct in my lifetime. Like when I heard that the World Trade Centre had collapsed. That it can’t be true sort of feeling.

I won’t go into how each and every species has a place in the web of life; or how the loss of biological diversity to poaching, habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, etc., is jeopardizing the very fabric of our fragile planet; or what a shameful legacy this is, to pass down to our children and our grandchildren.

Instead, I’ll just grieve. RIP rhinos. Sleep well. We can’t hurt you anymore.