National Koala Alliance protecting country’s icon

There are 24 birds, 78 frogs, and 27 mammal species or subspecies believed to have become extinct since European settlement of Australia.

Will the iconic koala be next?

Can you imagine an Australia without koalas? It’s pretty unthinkable isn’t it? This iconic animal is part of the fabric of this nation and one of the first things that people around the world associate with Australia. 

Yet, the unthinkable could well become a reality if we continue down this tragic path.

When European settlers first arrived in Australia, there were 10 million koalas in the wild. The threats have been endless, from being hunted for their fur, leading to extinction in some States, followed by translocations causing more problems, coupled with  widespread land clearing of koala trees to make way for development, the reality is that there are now a few  hundred thousand  at most.

Current koala populations are not evenly spread –koalas appear to be most abundant in Victoria where individuals are competing for food trees.  More than 100,000 hectares of blue gum plantations have been grown in the south west of the state providing temporary habitat for hundreds of koalas.  When these plantations are harvested the koalas become homeless and ultimately face starvation.

In South Australia, koala populations are battling disease, dog attacks and car collisions. The picture isn’t better for those koalas in Queensland and New South Wales - dramatic declines and local extinctions are noted with increasing frequency.  Over the past 20 years, koala numbers have dropped by 40 per cent in Queensland and by a third in New South Wales.

So how do we better protect the koala? Sadly, there is no simple solution.  Already many governments have tried to stem the decline in numbers, the most recent being the listing of koalas in 2012 in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Act. But, this classification may look good on paper, in reality, the listing hasn’t made any real difference to koalas, the  numbers year –on- year  continue to decline. 

We believe that in order to protect koalas, we need to protect the trees that they live in – without trees, koalas die, simple as that.

Yet despite this fact, we seem to be intent on continuing to chop trees down – either by logging for wood or for clearing for house building, mining, roads and railways. None of these activities are wrong per se but they do need to be done with care, avoiding koalas and the trees they live in. If we want to live in an Australia with koalas then we have no choice but to do this.

But in order to do this, we all need to work together – to koalaborate. This was the main message arising from the first ever national koala conference in 2013 in Port MacQuarie where koala rescuers, researchers and scientists gathered from all around the country to discuss the future of koalas. Everyone saw the need for immediate and collaborative action if we are to protect these animals for generations to come.

So, two years later the National Koala Alliance (NKA) was born with representatives from key koala groups in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

IFAW is proud to be part of this alliance and our aim is to provide a strong, united and cohesive voice for koala protection and to give a national and international voice to local issues.  And, ultimately to prevent the unthinkable, an Australia without koalas.

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