Koalas in New South Wales could become extinct before 2050 without urgent government intervention, a damning parliamentary report has found.
The report released on Tuesday said the destruction of koala habitats from this year’s unprecedented bushfire season – estimated to be up to 81 per cent in some areas – was accelerating the species’ demise in the state.
The NSW parliamentary inquiry also cited land clearing, climate change and logging as driving the marsupial to the brink of extinction.
‘Given the scale of loss as a result of the fires to many significant populations, the committee believes the koala will become extinct in NSW well before 2050,’ the report said.
An injured koala being rehabilitated at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie during the 2019/20 bushfire season. A damning parliamentary report has warned the marsupial species could become extinct in New South Wales before 2050
A koala is pictured at the Australian Reptile Park. The report released on Tuesday said the destruction of koala habitats from this year’s horror bushfire season was accelerating the species’ demise
Committee chair and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said the threatened species was already in significant trouble before the 2019/20 bushfire season which killed about 5,000 koalas.
The report said the government estimates there are 36,000 koalas in the state, but that figure is unreliable.
The committee found climate change was severely impacting koalas, affecting quality of food and habitat and exacerbating droughts and bushfires.
Images were shown to the inquiry of thirsty koalas unable to receive adequate moisture from their tree leaves, seeking hydration from garden hoses and water bowls.
The report found the NSW Koala Strategy to be ineffective in protecting enough areas for the marsupials to live.
Two new national parks have been put forward for the state government to assess their suitability as koala sanctuaries.
Overall, the committee has made 42 recommendations to the NSW government.
A dead koala is seen at the Flinders Chase National Park after bushfires swept through Kangaroo Island on January 7
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday told reporters she was satisfied with the government’s work in protecting koalas, including the funding of koala hospitals in Port Macquarie and Port Stephens.
‘If we hadn’t taken action, we would’ve seen those populations continue to diminish and I’m incredibly proud that we put tens of millions of dollars into protecting koalas across the state,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘From memory it was an investment in excess of $60 million.
‘I want to be the premier that saves our koala population into the future.’