Filmmaker adds voice to Kennett River koala crisis

June 19, 2024 BY

L-R: Director Gregory Miller, radio host Elizabeth Farrelly and Dr Georgia Wallace-Crabbe. Photo: SUPPLIED

A FILMMAKER has joined Kennett River residents and conservationists in raising concerns for the future of koalas in the area.

Thousands of visitors flock to Kennett River daily to see koalas in their natural habitat.

This newspaper has previously reported tourists eager for close-up photos of koalas have been observed climbing trees, flying drones, shaking branches, and throwing rocks to wake sleeping koalas.

Australian filmmaker Dr Georgia Wallace-Crabbe said she was appalled by the behaviour.

“I was pretty disgusted when I heard about it,” she said.

“I think people should meet koalas with an ecologist or a licensed operator who can tell them how to behave around koalas.”

Dr Wallace-Crabbe said what is happening at Kennett River was part of a larger patchwork of threats facing koalas.

Her new documentary, The Koala, directed by Gregory Miller, explores the fate of individual koalas that have survived but face an uncertain future.

The film weaves together stories of wildlife carers, scientists, and ecologists, questioning whether Australia can save this iconic species.

“We started making the film about a colony of koalas in southwest Sydney that were being threatened by land clearing for development,” Dr Wallace-Crabbe said.

“We realised that land clearing was the same issue everywhere – whether on the Gold Coast, Port Macquarie, or the outskirts of Geelong.”

“The story broadened as we followed different characters across various regions.”

The devastating bushfires of 2019-20, followed by severe floods, claimed the lives of an estimated 61,000 koalas.

Additionally, local wildlife carers have reported an increase in sick and injured koalas.

A government inquiry in 2020 warned that koalas could be extinct in the wild by 2050.

Dr Wallace-Crabbe’s documentary highlights the struggle to preserve the “Koala Corridor” in south-west Sydney, where a massive housing development threatens koala habitat.

The Koala also addresses the chlamydia epidemic affecting most NSW and Queensland koalas, a disease causing blindness, infertility, and painful death if untreated.

The documentary questions whether existing urban growth strategies can coexist with efforts to preserve the wild koala and explores how housing developments can be more sustainable.

Dr Wallace-Crabbe said koalas from Kennett River and the Otways in Victoria to southwest Sydney were being pushed to the brink by habitat loss, urban development, logging, and more.

“Saving the koala will take more than the promise of emergency government funding, scientific research, or rescue and care.”

The film premieres in Castlemaine on June 16 and at the Pivotonian in Geelong on June 25.

A future screening is also being planned for Lorne.

The full schedule can be viewed at thekoalasfilm.com

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