Koalas 'in strife' as 25,000 hectares of habitat destruction approved

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

Federal authorities approved the clearing of 25,000 hectares of koala habitat over the last decade, new analysis has revealed.

Sixty-three projects were given the green light by the Commonwealth despite the species being listed as vulnerable to extinction, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) found.

With koalas in NSW, Queensland and ACT having lost more habitat than any other threatened species, the wilderness protection charity is warning koalas are “in strife”.

The destruction of 25,000 hectares of koala habitat has been approved by the Commonwealth over the last decade. Source: Getty - File Image
The destruction of 25,000 hectares of koala habitat has been approved by the Commonwealth over the last decade. Source: Getty - File Image

ACF campaigner Basha Stasak, said the results shows the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which is designed to protect threatened species, is too weak.

Without improved mechanisms to conserve forest from bulldozers, future generations will miss out on seeing koalas in the wild she warned.

“The extinction of koalas is entirely avoidable if we protect the habitat they need to survive,” she said.

Mining industry tops list of

Despite having a major impact on koala habitat, agriculture and commercial logging were not assessed by ACF as projects by these industries usually don't require federal approval.

Mining topped the koala habitat destruction list (61 per cent of land cleared), followed by land transport (12 per cent) and residential housing (11 per cent).

This chart breaks down which industries the Federal Government has allowed to clear koala habitat. Source: ACF / Datawrapper
This chart breaks down which industries the Federal Government has allowed to clear koala habitat. Source: ACF / Datawrapper

This week, WWF-Australia identified habitat loss as the biggest driver in species extinction in Australia, with its impact compounding other pressures including climate change and feral predators.

The warning followed a 2021 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry which found koalas will be extinct in the wild across the state without urgent intervention to protect habitat.

Koala funding boost welcomed by conservationists

With just 300,000 koalas thought to exist in the wild, the Federal Government announced a record $50 million in funding in January to help the species recover from a sustained decline.

Mining projects accounted for 61 per cent of koala habitat clearing approvals. Source: Getty - File Image
Mining projects accounted for 61 per cent of koala habitat clearing approvals. Source: Getty - File Image

Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised the cash injection would "enhance the protection of koalas", and came just days after a $1 billion Great Barrier Reef funding decision.

Posing for photographs with a koala in his arms, Mr Morrison said the funds would be directed towards monitoring, habitat and health protection, community projects and health.

“Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and best recognised icons, both here at home and across the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come," he said.

While the funding was welcomed by a number of Australia’s environment groups, charities and wildlife carers warned without improved legislation to protect their homes, koalas would continue to decline in numbers.

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