The Far South Coast's vulnerable koala population suffered during the bushfire disaster as did many populations of the much-loved marsupials along the east coast. The bushfires, as well as continued logging and development on koala habitat, and a massive increase in land-clearing on private property in NSW, means if something doesn't change the animals will become extinct in NSW.
A NSW parliamentary inquiry has been considering the terrible situation for the animals and has released its report. One of the state's major conservation bodies, the Nature Conservation Council has welcomed the recommendations saying the report makes it clear the key to saving koalas is to protect their habitat.
The Nature Conservation Council's chief executive Chris Gambian said there were once hundreds of thousands of koalas in NSW - possibly millions - but now there are fewer than 30,000 in the wild.
"Their numbers continue to dive because of land-clearing for agriculture, logging for timber, urban development and climate-fueled bushfires. Koalas are on track to be extinct in NSW by 2050. Absolutely no one wants that."
Mr Gambian said, "The conservation movement stands ready to work with the government, industry, communities and unions to formulate a plan that will genuinely protect koalas in NSW. We have known for years that koalas have been struggling due to habitat loss caused by deforestation in NSW.
Koala habitat must be saved if the koalas are to be saved
“The NSW koala inquiry report makes it clear that the key to saving koalas is protecting their habitat. Koala habitat on farms and in state-owned forests is being bulldozed and chainsawed at an alarming rate.
“We have to stop logging koala trees and start creating more dedicated koala reserves. We must also protect forest corridors which link populations and enable healthy koalas to reoccupy areas where there have been local extinctions, such as around Port Macquarie after the fires.
“We welcome the recommendation to create a koala national park around the Georges River, and hope that the government will progress the creation of the north coast koala national park in collaboration with all stakeholders.
“The Environment Minister’s own department examined that proposal last year and concluded it would protect some of the best koala forests left in the state. Creation of that park would be a massive step forward for koala conservation.”
Mr Gambian said the perilous state of koala populations in NSW was an indictment of state and federal environmental laws. Koala numbers have plunged under these laws so they are clearly not working,” he said.
“What’s the point of environment laws that set a course for the extinction of our most iconic national species? The plight of the species is the clearest argument that we must overhaul our environmental laws to reverse the trend.”