Koala populations have declined by 26% and some populations are headed towards localised extinctions.
Koala populations have declined by 26% and some populations are headed towards localised extinctions. Sue Gedda/WWF-Aus

Alarming report: local extinctions for NSW koalas

LATEST research on the koala population in NSW has returned bleak results, with the population having declined by 26% and some populations headed towards localised extinctions.

The results of the report prepared for WWF-Australia by Dr Christine Adams-Hoskings was released as part of Endangered Species Day, just as WWF launches a major campaign to protect forests from excessive tree clearing.

It was found that koalas in Coffs Harbour are stable but gradually declining, however in the Coffs Harbour LGA there are some areas where koalas are no longer present.

In Ballina, koala populations were found to have a high mortality rate and low breeding success.

It is predicted koalas in the Port-Macquarie to Hastings area will become extinct within the next 30-50 years due to high mortality rates.

"Koalas and other wildlife can't survive without trees,” said WWF-Australia Australian Forest and Woodland Conservation policy manager Dr Francesca Andreoni.

"There will be more localised extinctions of koalas and other native species unless excessive tree clearing is stopped. The Adams-Hosking report for WWF makes for sobering reading.”

WWF-Australia and other conservation groups are concerned that changes to tree clearing rules in NSW will cause a surge in habitat destruction and are urging people to sign a petition at www.standupfornature.org.au.

The report was released around the same time NSW Greens Forests spokesperson Dawn Walker called for the urgent suspension of logging operations in Buckra Bendinni State Forest, near Nambucca Heads, due to concerns about the impacts on the koala population.

Ms Walker pushed for the creation of the Great Koala National Park in the NSW Parliament last week, saying the population had declined by 50% on the North Coast over the past 15-20 years.

"Buckra Bendinni State Forest in the Nambucca River headwaters is core koala habitat and Forestry Corporation's logging operations in the area need to be immediately suspended until a proper assessment of the local koala population can be conducted,” said Ms Walker.

"Locals report that this area is home to a well-documented koala population and contains mature Tallowwood and Grey Gums, which are preferred koala food trees and also tree species harvested by Forestry Corps' logging operations.

"Logging should immediately cease in the Buckra Bendinni State Forest and it should become part of a new Great Koala National Park, as the community and the Greens have been calling for over many years.”

The Great Koala National Park Plan proposes that the park encompasses 315,000 ha of public land in the Coffs Harbour region, comprised of 175,000 ha of state forests added to 140,000 ha of existing protected areas.