Experts predict koalas will be extinct in NSW by 2050


One of our most famous native animals could be extinct in New South Wales by 2050, a polarising new conservation report predicts.

The koala, an enduring symbol of this country around the world, is facing a bleak future mainly due to land clearing.

The report by wildlife conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC) found that since the repeal of the state’s Native Vegetation Act last year, the rate of native bushland clearing in Moree and Collarenebri has nearly tripled.

NSW koalas could be extinct by 2050 due to land clearing.
One of our most famous native animals could be extinct in New South Wales by 2050, a polarising new conservation report predicts. Source: AAP

“We’re seeing increasing numbers of koalas coming into care from motor vehicle accidents, dog attacks and stress-related diseases such as chlamydia,” NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service rescuer Hannah Ryan said.

The WWF estimates just 20,000 remain in the state, issuing a grim warning.

“Koalas are plummeting towards extinction in NSW, perhaps as early as 2050,” said WWF conservationist Dr Stuart Blanch.

However, some politicians believe the threat has been grossly exaggerated.

“That is simply untrue and it’s scaremongering,” Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton told 7 News.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce agreed, tweeting that the claim was “sensational rubbish”.

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The NSW government replaced the Native Vegetation Act law with controversial land-cleared codes which allow property owners to clear sections of native bushland without prior environmental assessment.

It prompted a wave of land clearing – in some areas up to 14 football fields of trees were being bulldozed every day.

Despite this, the Environment Minister is adamant koalas are being protected and the NSW government says it’s rolling out a $45 million package to guarantee the species’ future.

“The NSW government is working to help save and build the populations of iconic koala,” Ms Upton said.

NSW koalas could be extinct by 2050 due to land clearing.
This koala and her joey were victims of land clearing, found stranded on a roadside. Source: 7 News

Skeptics questioning the claims point to the Australian Koala Foundation’s 2008 prediction that the species would be extinct in Queensland by 2020.

In 2009 they claimed all koalas in the wild would be gone within 30 years. While some question the possibility of extinction, all agree the numbers are falling.

“We’ve seen 20 mammals go extinct in Australia in the last 230 years and koalas are definitely headed towards extinction,” Dr Blanch said.