With habitat loss and fragmentation already having resulted in koalas disappearing from 75% of their former range in NSW, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has turned to crowdfunding to support a strategic proposal aimed at conserving the state's koalas.
In the absence of a state koala recovery plan, NPA in conjunction with several local community groups, has developed an ambitious proposal for a new national park dedicated to the conservation of the species.
Located in the Coffs Harbour region, the 315,000 ha Great Koala National Park would ensure protection of two nationally significant koala metapopulations estimated to contain almost 20% of NSW's remaining koalas.
"Koalas in NSW have declined by an alarming thirty percent in just twenty years. Most of their remaining high quality habitat lies in state forests and on private land where continued clearing of native vegetation and logging is leading to the removal of vital food and habitat trees. Large and well-managed protected areas like the Great Koala National Park remain the single most effective tool for conserving species and their habitat," says Kevin Evans, CEO of National Parks Association of NSW.
"Both the commonwealth and state koala recovery plans have expired. In the absence of these vital documents to guide management strategies we are working hard to make koala conservation a priority issue."
Eighty-three compartments in the Great Koala National Park proposal area have been listed for logging over the next six to nine months.
"Despite the global status of the koala as the second most recognised animal in the world after the giant panda, no national conservation reserve has been set aside to ensure the species long-term protection. By contrast, China has established a national park covering one million hectares of bamboo forest to protect their pandas," says Mr Evans.
Part of a strategic koala reserve plan, the new park would be created by combining 175,000 ha of state forests with 140,000 ha of existing protected areas.
"NSW Labor and the Greens have already committed to establishing the new park. Now we need to persuade the NSW Government to do the same. The Great Koala National Park is the best chance we have of ensuring a secure future for the species in NSW. We cannot sit idly by while our koalas disappear forever," says Mr Evans.
In addition to koalas, the new national park would protect the area's World Heritage rainforests, some of the world's most diverse eucalypt forests and an array of threatened species, such as the Hastings River Mouse, Powerful Owl and Spotted Tailed Quoll.
Increased tourism and recreation opportunities would benefit local communities including Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo.
The organisation is seeking to raise at least $10,000 on Pozible to support their advocacy work. Additional funds over the target will be used to assist with a range of onground works, including the planting of koala habitat and food trees on private land.
NPA's Pozible campaign can be viewed at www.pozi.be/koalapark
Kevin Evans, ph. 0457 797 977