How many Koalas are there on Kangaroo Island?

Sarah Wilks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study demonstrated how an apparently clear-cut wildlife management issue was hijacked by a minority group. Koala populations on Kangaroo Island (where 18 Koalas were introduced in 1920), have been the topic of heated, vitriolic and public debate. As the debate continues, 30 000 herbivores are steadily chewing trees to death, spreading silently along riparian zones and remnant vegetation, leaving dead and dying trees and Koalas behind them. Using an elastic Actant Network Theory approach, different actors’ understandings of Koalas, each other, and the Island’s ecology were explored. Of particular interest were the means by which different constructions became devices to influence management outcomes. Several groups/alliances of actors were discerned, each with its own sense of identity, expertise and concept of conservation; defined not solely in terms of what a group was, but also in terms of what it was not. In particular, ascribed motivations provided definition. Four separate images of a Koala were constructed and promulgated by various groups. It is shown that one image (soft, cuddly and harmless) had been effectively constructed for sufficient constituencies to influence the outcome of the management debate. The current management solution serves no group well, especially the animals themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProbing the boundaries of environmental justice and global citizenship
EditorsBelinda Clements
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Print)9781904710387
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Publication series

NameProbing the boundaries
PublisherInter-disciplinary Press


  • Actant Network Theory
  • charismatic introduced species
  • human dimensions of conservation
  • Koalas

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