You can probably recall when you first caught a glimpse of a koala in our beautiful Aussie landscape – most likely taking a nap in a tree, since that’s usually the marsupial’s pose of choice!
But imagine a world where koalas simply didn’t exist; aren’t there to be admired by lucky Australians who see them in their nature habitat or even to make a shy appearance for the visitors who coo over them in wildlife parks.
But a world without koalas could be the reality if action isn’t taken now.
Koalas are one of 2,000 types of Australian animal, plant or ecosystem that are currently under threat. In the case of koalas, that’s because while wildlife parks and zoos provide a haven for these iconic animals, their homes in the wild are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The main threat to koalas is habitat loss through excessive tree-clearing that is being permitted under weakened land-clearing laws related to bulldozing forests on private land.
The situation is particularly severe in New South Wales, where koalas will soon have no viable habitat remaining if the clearing of land for farming continues.
Koalas rely on eucalyptus trees in forests and woodlands to survive, but the trees that act as the animals’ food and shelter are removed when land is cleared. When this happens, koalas are forced into more dangerous, open ground closer to humans, where they’re more likely to be hit by cars, attacked by domestic pets and even ill with diseases such as chlamydia.
The NSW koala population is just 75 per cent of what it was 20 years ago, yet the clearing of trees in the state has nearly tripled over the past year alone after NSW scrapped the NSW Native Vegetation Act in August 2017 – making the animals’ chance of survival even more tenuous.
Forests in the Moree and Collarenebri districts are being bulldozed at a rate of about 14 football fields a day, equal to more than 5,000 hectares over the past year, according to a recent report by WWF-Australia and the NSW Nature Conservation Council, that was based on satellite imaging that monitored land-clearing activities.
The lack of legislation protecting koala habitats means that 99 percent of the habitat on private NSW land can be bulldozed without restraint.
If action isn’t taken now, there’s a very real chance that koalas in New South Wales could be extinct in the wild by 2050. It’s up to Australians to protect our unique bush and wildlife so our grandchildren and their grandchildren and many more generations after them can enjoy these adorable animals.
The NSW Government says that its $45 million Koala Strategy will increase the amount of natural habitat for koalas, pay for research into koala disease and improve the areas of road known to be particularly dangerous to the animals. It’s called it the biggest commitment by any Australian state to secure koalas’ future in the wild – a claim WWF-Australia and other conservation and wildlife groups completely reject.
WWF-Australia knows that people care about the fate of koalas but many aren’t aware how large and dire the problem is in NSW. The international non-government organisation asks that people who care about koalas and other amazing native creatures sign the WWF-Australia petition that targets key NSW politicians, including Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to let them know that Australia needs them to take greater steps to save koalas.
Simply put, the NSW Government’s current strategy on koalas fails to protect 99 per cent of koala habitat at risk from tree-clearing on private land. Tree-clearing increased 800 per cent from 2013/14 to 2015/16, before the laws were relaxed even further in 2017.
The most effective way of protecting the species and other native wildlife from extinction is to reduce the clearing of their habitat.
By signing the WWF-Australia petition, you’re asking politicians to pass strong laws that stop excessive tree-clearing, conserve forests and wildlife, prosecute illegal clearing, ensure laws requiring the assessment of tree-clearing proposals are implemented and close tree-clearing loopholes that allow this destruction of koala habitat to continue.
More than 25,000 people have already signed the online petition at wwf.org.au/get-involved/save-koalas and it takes less than a minute to do your part to save koalas for future generations.
You can use the #SaveKoalas hashtag on your social media accounts to let friends and family know you’ve acted on this important issue and to encourage them to make a stand for Aussie wildlife too.
When did you first see a koala? Do you agree with largely unrestrained land clearing? Are you worried about the future of Australia’s wildlife, including its koalas?
Koalas in NSW have nowhere to go. They're losing their homes and their lives to excessive tree-clearing. We need to protect the homes of koalas before they’re gone forever, and to ensure future generations get to see these iconic Aussie animals in the wild. © WWF-Aus / Patrick Hamilton