How thieving tourists are harming Magnetic Island’s koalas
VISITORS to Magnetic Island are endangering the lives of koalas by taking home a keepsake from the tourist hotspot.
Visitors flock to the island to catch a glimpse of koalas in the wild and are going to great lengths to remember their encounters, which in turn could have a devastating impact on the marsupials.
Magnetic Island Koala Hospital co-owner Tim Bee said the hospital has increased its efforts to protect the animals by placing signs around the island to urge motorists to slow down.
Mr Bee said the koala warning signs had been disappearing since earlier this year.
"If we see a koala in a bad spot near the road, we will put a warning sign out but unfortunately they have become souvenirs to tourists," he said.
Mr Bee said the signs were attractive to tourists as mementos as they "have a cute little koala on it so they just take it" and they have even caught a person on camera stealing a sign.
"We got dashcam footage of an old bloke knocking one off about eight months ago and it was one of the first ones to go missing," he said.
"We are down to our last sign, and it makes it difficult for us to do our job because we have to keep replacing the signs and we have more signs being made up at the moment."
Magnetic Island Koala Hospital veterinarian Dr Ali Bee has resorted to writing handwritten messages on the back of the signs pleading with thieves to reconsider their actions.
Dr Bee writes: "Before you steal this sign as a souvenir, please consider there are only 40-50,000 koalas left in the wild. Every koala counts. These signs save lives so heed the signs and leave them to do their job."
Mr Bee said Magnetic Island was a vital home for the conservation of koalas and urged the public to care for the island's native wildlife and leave the signs alone.
"We have a healthy, strong population of koalas on the island and we are picking them up from West Point to Horseshoe.
"Koala habitats are destroyed every day and it is important everyone plays a part in protecting them."
Anyone who sees an injured koala on the island should call the Magnetic Island Koala Hospital on 0428 785 488.