Ziggy the koala survived the fires only to die after being mauled by a pet dog roaming loose on Stradbroke Island, prompting calls for pet owners to be more vigilant during this time of recovery.
Ziggy (as he was affectionately named) was meant to be one of the “lucky ones” having escaped the worst of North Stradbroke Island’s firestorm using his natural instinct to seek safer ground, but unfortunately was mauled by domestic dogs near Dunwich.
The dogs – family pets – were roaming free despite laws about restraining dogs with leashes or keeping them enclosed in a secure yard. Unfortunately Ziggy had to be euthanised after the attack, despite the best efforts of wildlife carers to nurse him back to health.
As North Stradbroke continues to recover from the two-week fire sparked by lightning on December 29, wildlife carers have joined with Traditional Owners to tell Ziggy’s story in the hope both residents and visitors will do their bit to help in the healing of Naree Budjong Djara (‘My Mother Earth’) and its beautiful surrounds.
Redland City councillor Craig Ogilvie said dog attacks were an all-too common problem on the island but now it is even more critical for owners to restrain domestic pets to ensure native fauna has a fighting chance.
“This is nothing more than what’s required by law but it’s even more crucial right now because a lot of wildlife has moved to new habitat and is highly vulnerable to attack,” Ogilvie says. Council’s animal management officers will have an increased presence on the island at this critical time to help ensure dogs are kept on leashes, and fines of $220 apply if dogs are off-leash out of designated areas.
Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) chief executive Cameron Costello urged people to “care for country” by respecting flora and fauna when visiting Straddie. “We encourage people to come and holiday, to enjoy our beaches and everything else we have to offer … but also to be mindful that we are in recovery mode,” says Costello. “We ask people not to wander from established tracks so our plants can regenerate and seeds can germinate, and our cultural sites are not disturbed.”
Wildcare Straddie spokesman Greg Grimmett said uncontrolled domestic dogs caused horrific and heart-breaking injuries to koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, curlews and lizards, to name just a few. “A significant number of injuries we deal with are a result of domestic dogs not being under control,” says Grimmett, who is also the convenor of the Stradbroke Wildlife Forum. “People particularly should keep in mind that off-leash areas do not mean people do not have to have their dogs under control.
“If people are camping they need to control their dog 24 hours a day, especially at night – just because it was curled up outside the tent when they went to bed does not mean it didn’t wander around searching for prey.”
Pet owners can also take steps to ensure accommodation providers claiming to be pet-friendly are also “wildlife friendly” by offering enclosures to protect native flora and fauna from wandering pets.
“We get too many animals that are torn to bits because of dogs – a bit of common sense would go a long way,” says Grimmett.
Redland City’s Acting Mayor and Local Disaster Recovery Committee chairman Alan Beard said most of the public areas on Straddie – including all campgrounds – have now been re-opened, although some tracks remained closed for public safety.
“Most of the most popular areas remain just as beautiful as they were before the fire,” he said. “Much of the fire burnt in inaccessible areas. There’s a multi-agency effort across all tiers of government to help with the island’s recovery and we are working closely with the Traditional Owners.
“We just ask people to use common sense and do their bit to help in the recovery.”
This includes driving carefully on established tracks as the the landscape is still fragile and vulnerable to erosion despite being burnt.
“We also ask them to drive slowly, as much of the wildlife of the island has relocated to unburnt areas around the townships,” says Grimmett.
Redland City’s Animal Management Committee spokeswoman Cr Wendy Boglary said Council officers traditionally stepped up their presence on the island for the holiday period and this will reduce risks to wildlife and the public generally. “It’s important that everyone does what they can to help Straddie heal,” she says. “People can avoid a fine of $220 by ensuring they exercise their dogs on leads, except in designated off-leash areas.”
Report injured wildlife to Wildcare Straddie on 0407 766 052.