Opinion

Caring for native wildlife essential

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ is something to which many can relate.

For me, this phrase pops into my head often, usually as I reach for the last choccie biscuit in the pack or sink my hand into a bag of chips only to realise I’ve already eaten them all.

Although the regrets often seem to be food-related, it also rings true passionately for me in regards to the environment and climate change.

I have recently returned from a long-weekend break in Tasmania, where I was delighted to go to Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary, located an hour west of Launceston.

Here, I was fortunate enough to feed kangaroos from the palm of my hand and see echidnas, native birds and wombats cared for after many had been struck down by illness or human impact in their native habitat.

To my delight, we were also able to meet quolls and Tasmanian devils.

Learning many things about the animals' behaviour, diet and reproduction, I was most interested to hear about their habitats.

I was saddened to learn that some breeds of quolls had been lost on mainland Australia because of urbanisation and attacks by introduced species.

The eastern quoll and western quoll are now considered extinct in Victoria.

The extinction of animals is not a new topic, but its pace and the increasing threats posed by humans cannot be ignored.

Last week, a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry was in the news as it looked into policy and funding to ensure the sustainability of koala populations and habitats within the state.

The inquiry was based on a report released by WWF-Australia and the Nature Conservation Council in 2018, which found koalas would become extinct by 2050 in NSW if current land clearing rates continued.

The report found that from 2016-17 to 2017-18 the annual amount of land either fully or partly cleared almost tripled, from 2,845 hectares to 8,194 hectares.

In light of this information, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage developed the $45 million NSW Koala Strategy and has taken steps to slow the demise of the cuddly marsupial.

It is wonderful to see a proactive, rather than reactive, approach being taken when it comes to protecting koala numbers in the wild.

There is no doubt that the rapid rate at which we are developing land will continue to threaten more native species across the country.

I hope we will see commitment such as that shown by the NSW Government replicated in years to come.