Temperatures and Drought Wiping Out Koala Bears

What Will We Do For Marketing Images of Cuteness?

Killing Off The Koala
The image above was published in May 2012 National Geographic. It shows the bodies of koala killed by dogs and cars in a week.

One of the innovative characteristics of the human species is our creativity in using things we’ve wiped out for naming and marketing purposes. For example “Indian Shores Condominiums” or “Happy Family Farms Estates”.

Noting says cute and cuddly more than the koala, a species native only to Australia. The animal appears on every Australian postcard. The problem is that koalas are rapidly growing endangered , with numbers falling by about 80% in the Gold Coast area. There are a number of factors causing the steep decline, and they are more or less predictable. Urbanization and farming have destroyed was swathes of habitat, with death by vehicle accident and dog attached ranking high as a mortality factor. The pro business Australian government has proven remarkably obtuse about the huge and inexorable forces threatening the big island in the coming decades, so a few cuddly bears aren’t likely to affect policy until it’s too late.

Koalas are also susceptible to heat and drought, which are plaguing the moisture challenged sub continent even more than the rest of the planet. However, koalas don’t have the option of migrating to cooler temperatures, as the eucalyptus trees they depend on won’t be moving.

* The photographer who took this picture posted this commentary on the National Geographic site.Q. How—and why—did you take this photograph?
A. I knew I had to get a picture of dead koalas for this story, but I kept running into trouble. People at the animal clinic I was working with said it would look bad. The Australian government doesn’t even like to acknowledge that these koalas are endangered. But the staff at one place I visited thought this was an important picture to make. They told me that in this area these animals will be gone entirely in another three to five years. They want the world to know that. So instead of disposing of the bodies as the dead koalas arrived during the week, the staff memBers saved them for me back in a freezer room at the facility. One of the workers smuggled them out for me to photograph, and when we were done, we went back and replaced them in the freezer.
Q. How did that make you feel?
A. Talk about a sinking feeling. Even though I’d never seen these particular koalas alive, I kind of felt like I’d gotten to know them. Putting them all back in a bin in the freezer room was hard. The one that really got me was the mother with the baby still in her arms.

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