Koalas face extinction in Australia's New South Wales by 2050, says report
Land clearing for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry had been the biggest factor in the fragmentation and loss of habitat for the animals in New South Wales. A prolonged drought-fuelled bushfire season that ended earlier this year was also devastating for the animals.
Koalas in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) could become extinct by 2050 unless the government immediately intervenes to protect the species and its habitat, the final report of a year-long parliamentary inquiry said on Tuesday. According to the report, a prolonged drought-fuelled bushfire season that ended earlier this year was devastating for the animals.
Land clearing for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry had been the biggest factor in the fragmentation and loss of habitat for the animals in NSW, the country's most populous state, over several decades.
About 5,000 koalas are thought to have died in devastating recent bushfires, the report to state Parliament said, adding that the bushfire season also destroyed about a quarter of their habitat across the state, and in some parts up to 81%.
"The evidence could not be more stark," the 311-page report says. "The only way our children's grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee's recommendations."
The report, commissioned by a multi-party parliamentary committee, makes 42 recommendations, including an urgent census, prioritising the protection of the animal in the planning of urban development, and increasing conservation funding.
The report, however, stopped short of unanimously recommending a moratorium on logging in public native forests, it said.
Stuart Blanch, manager of land clearing and restoration at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia called on the government to heed the recommendations and strengthen protections for the animals' habitat, Reuters reported.
"WWF calls on the NSW Premier to rewrite weak land clearing laws to protect koala habitat, greatly increase funding for farmers who actively conserve trees where koalas live, and a transition out of logging koala forests and into plantations." Blanch said in a statement.
The state government welcomed the report but did not immediately confirm which recommendations it would adopt, according to 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," state Environment Minster Matt Kean.
Koalas are also found in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory but their numbers are on the decline nationally, according to conservation groups.
Last year, the Australian Koala Foundation estimated there were "no more than 80,000" left in Australia - though others say it is difficult to know for sure.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday told reporters the government had already made investments into preserving the animals.