Koalas Facing Extinction In New South Wales By 2050, Report Finds
Koalas will become extinct in New South Wales in the next 30 years unless urgent action is taken, an inquiry has found.
While the biggest threat to the marsupial is continued habitat loss, which the report says is occurring in forests and on farms in the Australian state at an alarming rate, koalas are also at risk of disease and climatic events such as bushfires.
The inquiry to state parliament, by a cross-party committee, also found government estimates that there are 36,000 koalas in the state to be outdated and unreliable.
Although habitat loss remains the biggest threat to the species’ survival, logging and the clearing of habitat has continued. The committee said this habitat loss had only been compounded by the recent bushfires.
An estimated 24% of koala habitat on public land was affected and in some areas as much as 81% of habitat was burnt. In addition to this, approximately 5,000 koalas are believed to have died in the bushfires in NSW alone.
The report urged lawmakers to ensure any remaining populations do not perish in these rapidly diminishing habitats, putting forward 42 recommendations including establishing new national parks in identified areas and reducing land clearing.
‘Given the scale of loss as a result of the fires to many significant local populations, the committee believes the koala will become extinct in New South Wales well before 2050,’ the report said.
It suggested that ‘urgent government intervention’ is required in order to protect the koalas’ habitats and to ‘address all other threats to their ongoing survival’.
These threats include diseases such as chlamydia and the impacts of climate change, although admittedly these are cause for concern in not only NSW but nationwide.
Member of the Legislative Council and committee chair Cate Faehrmann said, as per The Guardian:
This report must be a game-changer for koalas and the protection of their habitat in NSW. The report found that habitat loss and fragmentation was the biggest threat to koalas, yet at every turn we were handed evidence that showed our current laws are inadequate and facilitating the clearing of core koala habitat.
The strategies and policies currently in place to protect the koala aren’t working, like the NSW Koala Strategy, which fails in ensuring enough koala habitat is protected for the different koala populations across the state.
There must be a significant increase in koala habitat protected from logging, mining, land clearing and urban development.
The state government welcomed the report, but did not immediately confirm which of the 42 recommendations it would adopt.
State Environment Minster Matt Kean said, as per the BBC: ‘Koalas are an iconic Australian animal recognised the world over and a national treasure which we will do everything we can to protect for future generations.’
Hopefully this will prove to be the first step in protecting the koala population and reversing the damaging effects climate change and logging has had in recent years.
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