Australia's teenage 'koala whisperer' gets her own Netflix show
Australia - A new Netflix documentary series about the cuddly world of a little known teenage animal activist has helped turn Australia's so-called "koala whisperer" into a new conservationist superstar.
In September 2020, the eight-part documentary series Izzy's Koala World was launched on Netflix in over 190 countries, telling the story of Izzy and her parents, and how they are helping save the species from sliding towards extinction.
Filmed when Izzy was just 11 years old, the show follows the Bee family as they take care of koalas on Queensland's Magnetic Island in north-east Australia.
Viewers learn about the plight of the threatened animals, which face habitat destruction and injury from vehicles, fences, and dog attacks as they are forced into more urban areas.
And while getting a lesson in conservationism, audiences also get to witness the koalas' adorably quirky behavior and unique personalities.
"I don't know what it is about koalas," Izzy said after the launch of the show, as a baby koala climbed on her shoulders. "I've grown up with them all my life, so I've grown that connection with them."
Conservationists say that koalas are on the verge of extinction
The series comes at a particularly critical time for the fuzzy symbols of Australia. They are increasingly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease, and the effects of climate change.
Before the devastating "Black Summer" bush fires of 2019-2020, the Australian Koala Foundation estimated there were "no more than 80,000" left in the country, making the species "functionally extinct."
Once a koala population falls below a critical point, it can no longer produce the next generation, leading to extinction.
The habitat destruction caused by the bush fires has seen koala numbers further plummet. A parliamentary inquiry found that koalas would be extinct in the state of New South Wales by 2050 without urgent intervention to protect habitat and help the species recover.
Environmental experts and activists have been pushing for better koala protection legislation and for the threat status to be upgraded from vulnerable to endangered.
"They are just the most adorable things and they're so helpless," said Ali, who helps take care of 230 koalas on the island. "They just look at you and your heart just melts - you have to help them."
Cover photo: Lucie Lang/123RF