The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) are alarmed at a new report that shows that koalas across two thirds of the state face extinction from habitat loss and climate change.
The report, written by former Office of Environment and Heritage ecologist, David Paull, indicates that radical measures need to be taken if the fate of the state’s koalas is to be reversed.
“We believe no report or data base within Government, either State or Federal, gives such a comprehensive picture of the likely fate of koalas in western NSW which are now facing extinction from continuing land clearing for mining and farming, and intensive logging of native forests,” Mr Paull said.
The report comes as the NSW Government unveils new laws which will allow farmers virtually unrestricted ability to clear their land.
“In light of this landmark report, we are calling on the government to take immediate action to protect all remaining koala habitat. Habitat loss and fragmentation have already led to koalas disappearing from 75% of their former home range and are continuing to cause dramatic population declines across NSW,” says Kevin Evans, CEO of NPA.
“Ensuring the future of our national icon is surely reason enough for the Baird Government not to proceed with its controversial new Bill which will see land-clearing escalate to a catastrophic level. With 80% of koalas in NSW living on private land, these new laws along with climate change will spell the end for this special marsupial.”
The report breaks down the study area into seven bioregions, including the South East Highlands and South Western Slopes.
Mr Paull says the report card for koalas in these areas is mixed.
“Some koala populations in the South-East Highlands and South Western Slopes are doing well, particularly those around the Monaro area, though others have shown significant recent decline, especially in the central-west, Parkes and Murrumbidgee regions.
“Patterns of decline in koalas across the state suggest highland areas may be increasingly important for koala survival into the future,” he said.
To save koala populations in NSW the report, commissioned by the Western Woodlands Alliance, and supported by community and environmental groups across NSW, identifies a radical conceptual Koala Park of over 4.5 million hectares, across seven bioregions, to preserve and link habitat across all land tenures from the Queensland to Victoria borders.
“The Western Woodlands Koala Park proposal calls for extensive additions to the reserve system and substantial incentives for private owners with priority habitat to conserve and manage their remnant habitat,” Mr Paull said.
“Critically only 18 per cent of the koala locations in the study area are in the current reserve system, while 64 per cent are on private land,” he said.
He said the report identifies and maps Koala Investment Zones and Private Land Hotspots, which contain priority habitat and important linkages, to be included within the park.
“If an epic and tragic extinction is to be avoided, it’s time to act. Out of the 97 populations we looked at only ten are stable. Most are declining and may well meet the criteria for endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, others are already gone.
“In Australia, Koalas, once prolific from South Australia to Queensland, are now listed as vulnerable in the ACT, NSW and Queensland. Inland Koalas, which represent over half of the total remaining populations in NSW are critical to the survival of this Australian species. If we save the Koalas we also save many other unique Australian animals also facing extinction. The NSW Koala Recovery Plan is failing miserably, while the Federal Government’s Koala Recovery Plan, originally set for release in 2011, is still nowhere to be seen.”
Noel Plumb, Convenor of the Alliance said “The Western Woodlands Koala Park report presents an integrated landscape proposal that meets the requirements for the preservation of inland Koala populations and will require widespread political, community and agency support to implement.”
For the full report, maps and summary go to www.westernwoodlands.weebly.com
David Paull, WWA Ecologist, ph. 0455 634 160
Noel Plumb, WWA Convenor, ph. 0425 238 303