'There is hope': Inside the race to save koalas from extinction

Warning distressing content: Amid warnings that koalas could be extinct in NSW in 30 years, the best minds in animal protection are meeting to try and save the species.

As koala habitat is cleared for housing and logging, dead and dying koalas are an increasingly common sight for motorists on country and suburban roads.

A dead koala on grass by the side of the road. A koala up a power pole next to a road.
Koalas are under threat as humans clear their habitat. Source: Bangalow Koalas

Experts from organisations including World Wide Fund for Nature, National Parks Association and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have assembled in NSW parliament to address the inquiry into koala populations and habitat.

Stuart Blanch from World Wildlife Fund urged the government to take action in the same way that China did to save the giant panda and protect forests and the climate.

“There is hope - they don’t have to go extinct,” he told the inquiry.

A dead koala on its back with arms outstretched lies between a road and a gate on dirt.
Koalas are commonly found dead next to NSW roads. Source: Bangalow Koalas

IFAW was originally founded to stop seal hunting in Canada, and now they have turned their attention to elephant poaching and the NSW koala “crisis”.

In a statement to the inquiry, IFAW noted that koalas are now listed as vulnerable.

“The pace of such local extinctions is growing, with climate change hastening declines,” they said.

“Many populations in coastal and western areas may already be functionally extinct.”

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia IFAW campaigner Josey Sharrad stressed that koalas must be given more space to live and thrive.

“Koalas can’t wait. It is time for bold, transformative cross-party action if we are to save this species for future generations,” she said.

Outside the inquiry, a small but noisy group of protesters urged the government to take immediate action to help koalas.

Protesters hold signs to protect koalas outside NSW parliament.
Protesters urge the NSW government to do more to protect koalas. Source: Supplied.

The NSW environment minister Matthew Kean was not at the inquiry and unavailable for immediate comment, but a spokesperson outlined the state government’s commitment to the species.

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