Minister Must Act Now To Save Threatened Koalas
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW, www.ifaw.org) is calling for Environment Minister Tony Burke to list koalas as a threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Minister Burke is due to make the decision on 30 April, having already extended the deadline twice to allow consideration of further information from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
“Koala populations, particularly in NSW and Queensland, are in trouble. National listing under the EPBC Act now will help assess and halt the downward trend in koala numbers. But the Minister must act now while there is still a chance to maintain viable populations of wild koalas where they’re currently in decline,” said Isabel McCrea, IFAW Oceania Director.
Koalas face a number of threats including from loss and fragmentation of their habitat due to insensitive development. Land clearing often results in koala injury or death. The loss of food trees leads to more time spent on the ground where they can be hurt by dog attack or cars. Habitat fragmentation is also thought to increase koalas’ vulnerability to drought and diseases including Chlamydia and koala retrovirus which are decimating koalas in many areas.
At present decisions about development in and around koala habitat are decided at state and local level. Steep local declines in a number of areas suggest this is not enough to guarantee the safety of this Australian icon.
Population estimates are not reliable at national or state level – funding is not currently made available to provide standardized and nationwide data. Some estimates suggest 10 million koalas existed before European settlement began with numbers now just a fraction of that. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee suggests a 2010 level as low as 200,000, down from 430,000 in 1990. The lack of better population estimates is the reason that the Committee has not recommended listing koalas to date. But there is now more recent evidence of sharp declines, sometimes as much as 80%, in areas where good data does exist.
“What’s clear is that koala numbers are declining. The Minister faces a difficult decision – balancing development pressures with the needs of a vulnerable species. In the midst of a strong industry push back on environmental protections the koalas decline couldn’t be more poorly timed. We urge him to do the right thing, rise above the politics and list the koala before it’s too late,” Ms McCrea said.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in distress all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, works to prevent animal cruelty, and advocates protecting wildlife and their habitats. For more information: www.ifaw.org Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.