The Australian Koala is a highly recognisable and charismatic species known across the world As one of our most famous inhabitants they are a great entry point to encourage broader understanding of the issues that are affecting threatened species in Australia. Koalas are listed as vulnerable in the ACT, NSW and QLD and many people believe they are at the centre of a perfect storm and the species is slipping away.
Arguably the world’s favourite species... as you may expect from a species inhabiting a crisis ecoregion, it’s not faring so well. Historical accounts describe large numbers of koalas being seen regularly in the late 1800s in NSW. In 1921, 200,000 koala pelts passed through Sydney and in 1924 two million pelts were exported from eastern Australia.
Yet now all koala populations, bar a few in eastern Australia, are in decline. Some sharply so. So, whether or not you find, as we do, the most recent estimate of 329,000 in Australia (36,000 koalas in NSW) to be optimistic one thing is clear: koala numbers are a fraction of what they once were and the species is slipping away.
In NSW, koalas are in the centre of a perfect storm largely of the government’s own making: changes to land clearing laws have already devastated bushland in Queensland and history threatens to repeat itself in NSW with the Baird government recently passing its land-clearing legislation.
...The best way to protect koalas is a tried and tested one. The scientists that identified the crisis ecoregion problem also identified the solution: large, well-connected protected areas. Only by protecting and connecting remaining koala habitat can the government enact meaningful conservation. Everything else is tinkering round the edges.
And only by demonstrating that it can effectively protect koalas can we have any confidence that the government can protect the rest of Australia’s extraordinary wildlife that doesn’t share the koala’s high profile.
Read the full article in The Guardian HERE.