Koalas will be extinct in areas of Australia within 30 years, an inquiry has found.
Habitat loss is seen as the biggest threat to the survival of the adorable furry creatures, with a shocking 81% of the land they inhabit in New South Wales ravaged by bushfires and deforestation.
According to the findings of a year-long inquiry presented to the Australian parliament today, the koala will become completely extinct in New South Wales before 2050.
Committee Chairwoman Cate Faehrmann said that 5,000 koalas had died in the horrific bushfires that scorched over a million hectares of the state in the past year.
This destroyed 24% of koala habitat on public land, rising to 81% in badly affected areas.
The Greens MP added that the inquiry marked a watershed moment for the government, and urged them to act now to stop the species’ extinction.
She said: “At every turn we were handed evidence that showed our current laws are inadequate and facilitating the clearing of core koala habitat.
“The strategies and policies currently in place to protect the koala aren’t working.”
The report also suggested that climate change will make the situation worse for the marsupial, by increasing the frequency of bushfires and reducing the quality of the eucalyptus leaf, the animal’s diet.
SAVE THE KOALAS
In response, the committee suggested 42 policies aimed at saving the koala, including the creation of protected forest corridors, increased funding for conservation charities and giving incentives for farmers to protect land rather than clear it.
Faehrmann added: “There must be a significant increase in koala habitat protected from logging, mining, land clearing and urban development.”
Among the reasons for the shrinking koala population is deforestation, with some 80% of Australia’s eucalypt forests cleared by settlers for urban developments.
Koalas — which are only found in Australia — can only survive in appropriate habitats.
The Australian government has vowed, in response, to implement policies urgently to stop the extinction of the koala.
New South Wales’ environment minister Matt Kean said: “The NSW Government has committed to our $44million koala strategy, the largest financial commitment to protecting koalas in the state’s history.”
Koalas in other regions of Australia also face a significant threat – with some 25,000 killed by bushfires in the state of South Australia in January.
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