Aussie state where future generations will only see iconic wildlife in zoos

Despite the warnings, the situation for NSW's iconic species is continuing to worsen.

Left - a Bulldozer at the edge of Appin Road in south-west Sydney bulldozing trees. Right - 11-year-old Bianca and a koala.
Ricardo Lonza's 11-year-old daughter has inherited his love of wildlife, but her children may never see koalas in the wild. Source: Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

One Aussie state has revealed future generations won’t be able to see hundreds of iconic native animals in the wild, with 50 per cent of its threatened species expected to be wiped out in a century.

What’s more alarming is that the situation is worsening for the 1000 species on the NSW threatened species list, because the chance of them surviving has dropped two percentage points in just one decade.

The NSW biodiversity outlook report for 2024 makes for difficult reading. Funded by the state government, it uses official data to track future trends in biodiversity. One conservationist called the result “calamitous”, but another admitted it “isn’t surprising” because laws to protect the natural world simply aren’t working.

Related: Australia's 'killing corridor': Disturbing details hidden in sad koala photo

Reflecting on details in the report, koala rescuer Ricardo Lonza called its findings "heartbreaking". "It's truly sad that in the future our children's children won't see any wildlife in the wild, it'll only be in zoos," he said.

Wildlife lovers fear the only place many native animals will be seen is inside zoos. Source: Getty (File)
Wildlife lovers fear the only place many native animals will be seen is inside zoos. Source: Getty (File)

The report examines environmental data collected between 2007 and 2023, and since its election last year the state government has responded to environmental concerns by announcing some reforms designed to protect wildlife. They include creating 480,000 hectares of national park, and killing feral animals. The latter is particularly important because other than humans, they have caused the most extinctions in Australia.

In a statement, Environment Minister Penny Sharpe claimed the Minns Government was committed to fixing "runaway land clearing" and reforming the state's controversial offset programs that allow developers to destroy land by purchasing credits.

“Worryingly, this report confirms biodiversity is in decline and getting worse. Our species and the ecosystems they live in are facing serious threats including habitat loss, invasive species and climate change. The NSW Government is working hard to turn this around," she said.

While changes could be made to protect the state's wildlife, many conservationists are unconvinced the government will act decisively enough — particularly because the threats are only worsening. Last week it emerged the state government's own logging agency had allegedly 'botched' requirements to protect endangered greater gliders 188 times since February.

The release of the report follows a parliamentary inquiry that concluded koalas would be extinct in the state by 2050 without urgent government intervention. Since then the state and federal governments have continued to back the destruction of endangered koala habitat in southwest Sydney by housing developers including Walker Corporation and LendLease, and delayed the creation of the Great Koala National park on the Mid North Coast.

Habitat destruction, climate change and invasive species were singled out in the report. Its 2024 assessment includes the impact of the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.

Reads 'What on Earth? Koala habitats continue to be bulldozed in QLD and NSW despite them being listed as endangered.' With an image of a koala in a tree.
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The Nature Conservation Council for NSW said the report confirms its repeated warnings to the NSW Government that the state is suffering a biodiversity crisis and needs to take urgent action to reverse changes to environmental laws championed by the former Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

“Habitat clearing has tripled since nature laws were changed in 2016 to allow virtually unregulated destruction, and now this report confirms what we suspected – it’s only going to get worse for NSW ecosystems and wildlife as long as the status quo persists,” NCC spokesperson Clancy Barnard said.

“It isn’t surprising that when nothing is done, nothing gets better. The state of the NSW environment is not going to improve until the NSW Government bins these John Barilaro-legacy laws and gets to work on nature protection laws that actually protect nature.”

Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre said unless there are legal changes to land clearing regulations, the “calamitous decline in our environment” will continue.

‘’The release of the government’s 2024 NSW Biodiversity Indicators Report is one big alarm bell, both environmentally and politically. The last thing the Minns government should find itself with at the next election is a record of more clearing of native vegetation and more species sliding to extinction. This is a fundamental challenge they must not resile from,” he said.

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