Managing the Koala Problem: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
ELAINE STRATFORD,* NICOLE MAZUR,† DANIEL LUNNEY,‡ AND DAVID BENNETT§
*School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia, email
†Urban and Environmental Research Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
‡New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia
§Australian Academy for the Humanities, Garden Wing University House, Canberra, ACT 2906, Australia
There is a complex scientific, ethical, and cultural debate in Australia about how best to conserve koalas and their habitat. Despite the diverse array of management and research options promoted by scientists, wildlife agency staff, and koala advocates, there remains a gap in our acknowledgment of the social factors influencing decision making about koala conservation. Koala management research has generated valuable scientific knowledge about koala biology and ecology but has been weak about organizational and policy processes and about the cultures within which we produce, disseminate, and legitimize this kind of knowledge. We suggest that more effective koala conservation will result from making the political and cultural influences on decision making regarding the koala more explicit in research, management, and policymaking forums. Research must be conducted in the context of the cultural significance of the koala. The koala’s survival depends on preserving the valuable lands that these creatures (and many others) inhabit. Ultimately, the koala symbolizes conflicting land-use values and illustrates the need for greater collaboration, cooperation, and trust among social and natural scientists in the conduct of koala conservation research, management, and policy.