Hitch a long way from home

Koala stops traf­fic on ma­jor hwy as land clear­ing in­creases stress lev­els

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - Emma Clarke emma.clarke@qt.com.au

KOALAS trapped in the mid­dle of high­ways, snakes in sub­ur­ban back­yards and kan­ga­roos dead on the side of the road – they’re wildlife where they shouldn’t be.

Mass clear­ing for hous­ing and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment around Ip­swich is de­stroy­ing nat­u­ral wildlife habi­tats and push­ing an­i­mals into dan­ger.

Last week, Ip­swich snake catcher Bran­don Wilkin­son was called to res­cue dis­placed snakes nine times in two days; on the week­end big-hearted truck­ies stopped traf­fic to es­cort Hitch the koala from the Cun­ning­ham Hwy at Am­ber­ley; and ev­ery day Ri­p­ley res­i­dent Paul Hur­ley passes a dead kan­ga­roo down the street.

Author­i­ties say mass land clear­ing and devel­op­ment, or at least hu­mans, are to blame.

Mr Wilkin­son said new hous­ing devel­op­ment was re­spon­si­ble for de­stroy­ing snake habi­tat and push­ing them into other res­i­den­tial sub­urbs.

“All the new es­tates, with grass­land and trees be­ing cut down, a lot of habi­tat is be­ing de­stroyed and snakes are the same as birds and koalas, they are get­ting dis­turbed so they have to move away,” he said.

“Snakes will move into ar­eas where houses have al­ready been built and that is quite a con­cern be­cause a lot of those ar­eas they aren’t used to see­ing snakes in.”

Mr Hur­ley said he of­ten watched a mob of 20 kan­ga­roos from his kitchen sink, an­i­mals that have now been re­placed with piles of dirt and empty space.

“Be­fore they cleared the land there was a lot of kan­ga­roos, we used to see them all the time. Now there is no grass, not a tree left on the site,” Mr Hur­ley said of the devel­op­ment next to his house.

“There used to be a mob of 20 kan­ga­roos that lived there, I could see them from the win­dow and the kitchen sink when we were pre­par­ing din­ner.

“That wildlife has been dis­placed and while we haven’t no­ticed any in­ci­dents of snakes or wildlife in our yard, it’s ob­vi­ous they are gone.

“I am dis­mayed that the clear­ing was done to­tally, there wasn’t a space left there or in the pad­dock across the road. There is now a huge swathe of land without a tree or a piece of grass.”

Mr Hur­ley said there was plenty of work be­ing done in other sub­urbs to main­tain wildlife cor­ri­dors, a fo­cus that did not ex­tend to Ri­p­ley.

“I know that devel­op­ment has got to hap­pen but I feel that we re­ally missed out with an op­por­tu­nity. With our modern think­ing and our modern knowl­edge, we know about things like wildlife cor­ri­dors and refuges and we con­tinue to clear around the area,” he said.

“The devel­op­ment has got to hap­pen but there should have been a se­ries of con­nected path­ways for wildlife with some bush left there.”

Ip­swich Koala Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Ruth Lewis was car­ing for Hitch the koala af­ter he was hit by a car on the high­way.

She said a com­bi­na­tion of the im­pact of hu­man ac­tiv­ity in land clear­ing, a dry win­ter and breed­ing sea­son were bring­ing koalas to the ground.

“As there are a lot more com­ing to the ground, they are placed un­der a lot of stress and they are not get­ting enough nu­tri­ents from the leaves as they are dry,” Ms Lewis said.

“The com­mu­nity needs to keep in mind koalas are out look­ing for a beer and a good time and Ip­swich is home to a large pop­u­la­tion of koalas and we need to make sure there is a fu­ture for them.”

PHOTO: ROB WIL­LIAMS

BE­LIEVE IT OR NOT: Ri­p­ley res­i­dent Paul Hur­ley is dis­ap­pointed the devel­op­ment next to his prop­erty will have no trees, na­ture cor­ri­dors, or parks.

Hitch the koala was out look­ing for a date last Satur­day when he was hit on the Cun­ning­ham Hwy.

PHOTO: HAR­VEY’S TOW­ING

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