Page 1179 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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Koalas—Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for the Environment. Members will recall that, in the devastating firestorm of January 2003, only one koala—appropriately or inappropriately named Lucky—survived out of the colony at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Minister, can you please tell the Assembly how plans have progressed to reinstate a Koala colony at Tidbinbilla?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms MacDonald. It is, I think, sad that we have lived for the past two years with the knowledge that only one of the Tidbinbilla koalas, Lucky, survived the fire. It was a devastating fire which had an enormous impact on wildlife throughout the whole of Namadgi and Tidbinbilla—indeed, all the areas that were burnt. I think Canberrans have all followed Lucky’s progress and rehabilitation. She certainly had become, and continues to be, for Canberrans, a real symbol of survival and recovery, and I know that a vast number of Canberrans have taken Lucky to their hearts.

Recognising the very strong interest of the Canberra community, not just in Tidbinbilla but specifically in koalas and Lucky, as part of the re-establishment of Tidbinbilla, the government has been very keen to re-establish the koala population at Tidbinbilla. We have been negotiating with New South Wales in relation to the prospect or possibility of acquiring some koalas from this particular region, because of issues in relation to the gene line and the gene pool and the relationship between koalas from the southern tablelands and the ACT.

That is a process we are continuing to pursue. It is our hope in the future to indeed acquire koalas from the New South Wales region. However, New South Wales national parks and wildlife are, quite rightly, concerned about the viability of koalas within the wild, and do not permit the taking of koalas from the wild—a decision which we of course accept and respect. They have agreed that it would be reasonable and appropriate for us to take New South Wales koalas that are being rehabilitated to Tidbinbilla, for the purposes of re-establishing a breeding program. These are koalas that were perhaps injured and left on the side of the road and have been cared for over time, and it is now appropriate that they be kept in an enclosure. That is a hope for the future.

I am very pleased that, today, eight koalas from Kangaroo Island will be arriving in the ACT—in fact, I think they have just arrived—and will be at home in Tidbinbilla tonight. I think it is a great boost, at this stage, that we have been able to re-establish a koala population at Tidbinbilla. As I say, the koalas are from Kangaroo Island and they have been sterilised. it is part of a protocol or policy of South Australian parks that koalas from Kangaroo Island are either culled or sterilised. Eight female sterilised koalas will arrive at Tidbinbilla tonight. They will be homed and housed in a specially designed settling-in area to ensure that they do make the transition or adjustment. We have done significant research on the foliage that has regrown in the wet forest koala enclosure to ensure that there is compatibility between the feed the koalas are used to on Kangaroo Island and what they will have here.

As I say, these koalas are not from the same bloodline as koalas from this region. It is for that reason that they would not be used for breeding purposes but we will seek to pursue that through a southern tableland gene pool group of koalas. However, I think this is a

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