Australian Koala Foundation
|Founded||17 January 1986|
|Focus||Long-term conservation of the wild koala|
|Method||Research, education, legislation, mapping and planning|
|Deborah Tabart, OAM|
The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) is an international not-for-profit scientific organisation that aims to diminish the threats to the survival of koalas and in doing so raise the awareness of the global community to help save endangered fauna and flora. It is the principal non-profit, non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation and effective management of the wild koala and its habitat.
The koala lives predominantly on a diet of eucalyptus plants. Currently these are being cut down for making space and much of these species are dying.
Two veterinary scientists, Barry Scott and Steve Brown, registered Australian Koala Association Inc in 1986, and subsequently changed the name to Australian Koala Foundation Inc. The term "Inc" was later dropped. Chief Executive Officer, Deborah Tabart OAM, has headed the Foundation for over 20 years, earning the international title of the Koala Woman.
In 1980s, it was believed that the major threat to koalas was a disease known as chlamydia. The initial goal of the AKF was to find a cure for chlamydia. It was soon discovered that habitat destruction was the main cause of the koalas' problems. The focus of the AKF was adjusted accordingly.
Today, the Australian Koala Foundation use science, politics and a global support base to rally for change at the legislative, developmental and personal level. September is Save the Koala Month which is the primary time of year that the Australian Koala Foundation work to raise awareness and funds for the plight of the koala. With only around 100,000 koalas left in the wild and local extinctions occurring regularly, the fight to protect habitat and manage koala populations remain the goals of the Foundation.
"No Tree... No Me" is the slogan for the Australian Koala Foundation. "No Tree... No Me" was coined by the Australian Koala Foundation’s creative supporter Dick Marks in 1994 and has become an appropriate slogan for the Australian Koala Foundation as they focus on the fight for habitat conservation of the koala. Koala's main source of food and nutrients comes from the leaves of eucalyptus trees, and they live in the trees - so the AKF is trying to save as many as they can.
The long-term survival of the koala depends on the retention and effective management of suitable habitat to support koalas in the wild. The future of this species will not be sustainable in Captivity.
The AKF has several ongoing projects dedicated to saving the wild koala through conserving its habitat and raising funds to enable the AKF to continue running despite its not-for-profit policy. These include:
- Koala Beach: This housing estate in northern New South Wales was the result of collaboration between The Ray Group of developers and the AKF. It is the first property to be master planned and designed with the protection of the environment as its priority, with the community making conscious compromises to its lifestyle so that it can co-exist with wild koalas.
- Koala Habitat Atlas: This project involves the mapping, identifying and quantifying of koala habitat throughout the koala's geographic range. It aims to identify which trees are preferentially used by koalas and to identify and rank koala habitat on a shire by shire basis.
- Koala Campaigners: Koalas and their habitat do not receive adequate protection under the current legislation. Members of the public who join Koala Campaigners send emails to Australia's Environment Minister, to urge a meaningful review of the National Koala Conservation Strategy and provide effective legislation.
It is safe to say that the AKF has made a difference in its 20 years of operation, and all without government funding. Its most outstanding achievements are as follows.
In 2003, the Queensland State Government listed South East Queensland's koalas as 'vulnerable' under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 after the AKF's research made compelling findings. The AKF has appealed on multiple occasions to both state and federal governments, but the governments have failed to make any substantial changes to legislature affording the wild koala effective protection.
The partnership between the AKF and the Ray Group has resulted in Koala Beach, a residential estate that is koala-friendly and proof that development and wildlife protection are not necessarily incompatible. The AKF is the world's largest funding body of koala research. Research findings include the contribution made by koalas to Australia's tourism industry and viability studies on koala populations in various bioregions.
More than 40,000 km² of land has been mapped for the Koala Habitat Atlas. Unlike other mapping projects, the Atlas does not merely pinpoint the location of individuals in the species. It displays the occurrence of suitable koala habitat (even if there are no koalas there at present) that can be 'restocked' in future if necessary. More than 1,000 sites were identified in South East Queensland alone.
The AKF is recognised as the source of choice for information on koalas. Every year, staff members receive and respond to over 10,000 queries and requests for information. These inquiries come from a diverse range of people, including students, land managers and documentary makers. The AKF's website records almost one million hits each year. The foundation established an ecolabelling initiative where pastoralists who actively support koala habitat preservation receive the koala stamp of approval.
Save the Koala Month
The AKF runs an annual fundraising campaign called Save the Koala Month each September. Save the Koala Day is held on the last Friday of that month. People from all over the world are encouraged to help sell Save the Koala Month merchandise such as temporary tattoos, stickers and badges, whether as individuals, businesses or school groups. Awards include a highest fundraiser prize and a free foster koala for one year for those who raise more than $200.
- Steve Austin & Peter Spearritt (29 July 2005). "Australian Koala Foundation's Deborah Tabart". ABC Queensland (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "September is Save the Koala month". Central Queensland News (APN News & Media Ltd). 2 September 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2012.