A new study that was conducted for more than a year has predicted that unless there is urgent government intervention to prevent he loss of habitat of the Australian koalas, these lovable animals will become extinct before 2050 in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
An estimate of the government that there are 36,000 koalas in the state is outdated and unreliable, found the NSW parliamentary inquiry report.
The biggest threat to the species’ survival in NSW was loss of habitat, found the report that was tabled on Tuesday by a multi-party committee, which also noted that there has been rampant continuation of logging and clearing of habitat.
An estimated 24 per cent of koala habitat on public land was also affected by the 2019-20 bushfires which has also compounded the loss of habitat for the animal, the committee said. As much as 81 per cent of the habitat of the koalas was found to have been destroyed in some places.
Climate change impacts such as drought and fire was further exacerbating the threat to the species, the report said.
“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 and that urgent government intervention is required to protect their habitat and address all other threats to their ongoing survival,” the report said.
Sadness and concern was also expressed by the committee over the finding that the once-thriving koala population in the NSW Pilliga region had likely been left extinct even before the bushfires had hit the area.
“This report must be a gamechanger for koalas and the protection of their habitat in NSW,” said the Greens MLC and committee chair, Cate Faehrmann.
“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,” it Faehrmann said.
“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,” Faehrmann added.
42 recommendations were made by the committee to save the koala. Those included urging the government to urgently prioritise the protection of koala habitat corridors, better methods of monitoring, increase in funding for community conservation groups, banning of opening up of old-growth forest to logging and providing greater incentives to local farmers who help in protecting land rather than clear it.
“There must be a significant increase in koala habitat protected from logging, mining, land clearing and urban development,” Faehrmann said.
One of Australia’s most iconic species needed help, shows the findings of the committee, said the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
“We are pleased that there is a growing political consensus that koala extinction is a very real possibility if we don’t act urgently to protect koala habitat,” the council’s chief executive, Chris Gambian, said.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)