Koalas now listed as endangered species on Australian east coast
Without significant action made by the Australian government, extinction is predicted by 2050.
This article was updated February 21, 2022.
Sussan Ley, Australian minister for the environment, has recently announced koalas are listed as an endangered species on Australia’s east coast.
According to an organizational release, this decision indicates koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will now be classified as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) 1999. It acknowledges that extinction is predicted to become a reality for this beloved animal by 2050 if stronger protections are not instilled.
“This decision is a double-edged sword. We should never have allowed things to get to the point where we are at risk of losing a national icon. If we can’t protect an iconic species endemic to Australia, what chance do lesser known but no less important species have?” remarked Josey Sharrad, IFAW wildlife campaign manager, in the release.
“The bushfires were the final straw. This must be a wake-up call to Australia and the government to move much faster to protect critical habitat from development and land-clearing and seriously address the impacts of climate change,” she added.
This decision to list Koalas as endangered follows a joint nomination by the IFAW, Humane Society International (HSI), and WWF-Australia in March 2020 to the federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee. According to the release, it was backed by strong evidence the organizations submitted to support the nomination, including scientific reports by ecological consultants Biolink that discovered Queensland’s koala population has fallen by approximately 50% since 2001, and as much as 62% of the NSW koala population has been lost over the same time.
Stuart Blanch, MS, PhD, WWF-Australia conservation scientist, urged federal and state governments to commit to doubling koala numbers on the east coast by 2050.
“Koalas have gone from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered within a decade. That is a shockingly fast decline. Today’s decision is welcome, but it won’t stop koalas from sliding towards extinction unless it’s accompanied by stronger laws and landholder incentives to protect their forest homes,” said Blanch, in the release.
The decision follows 10 years after koala populations in Queensland, NSW and the ACT were deemed Vulnerable under the EPBC Act in May 2012.
There is hope for koalas, according to Phil Tucak, BSc BVMS, wildlife outreach vet and dvm360®'s Australian correspondent. He mentioned that in recent years, the Australian government has provided more than $74 million in funding to protect the species and initiatives such as work by the Koala Health Hub at the University of Sydney are underway for a National Koala Disease Risk Analysis. This project aims to develop a common understanding of the disease threats to koalas, and strives to inspire a nationally coordinated and collaborative approach to disease prevention and control.
“The recent listing of koalas as an endangered species, reflects the dire straits in which this iconic and much-loved species finds itself. The upside to the koalas endangered species classification, is that hopefully this will boost awareness of their plight, and embolden change in how Australia manages the conservation of koalas and other threatened wildlife species," Tucak remarked in an email to dvm360®.
Koala endangered listing is a grim but important decision. International Fund for Animal Welfare. News release. February 11, 2022. Accessed February 17, 2022. https://www.ifaw.org/au/press-releases/koalas-uplisted-endangered