Koalas could be extinct within 40 years, expert warns
A KOALA expert and scientist has released mapping showing the Lismore region has lost 60 per cent of koala habitat since European settlement.
WWF Australia's Protected Areas and Conservation Science Manager Dr Martin Taylor shared the mapping, which he conducted this week, at Wednesday's Save our Koalas Community Forum in Lismore.
Dr Taylor said the alarming results, which came from layering Federal and state Government data on koala sightings and examining forest habitat, was distressing and with the current and proposed laws around land clearing, Koalas could be extinct within the next 40 years.
"With this mapping and the population data it's time to raise more public alarm," Dr Taylor said.
"2015 figures from the NSW government show about 22,00 hectares has been cleared across the state ... nearly half of that is for agriculture which is mostly livestock pasture. Native forestry is about 7000 hectares of that and urban, industrial and mining is 5000 hectares or 50 square kilometres.
"Only nine percent of forest and woodland is in close to something like 'in tact' condition and that's mostly in the national parks. When is it going to end?"
He said the state of the North Coast Koala population was dire.
"We've lost 33 percent or a third of the population in 20 years in NSW and in another 40 years that could go down to zero," he said.
"Commonwealth data showed the population was about 10,000 in 1990 in the North East area - which would include the Northern Rivers, then by 2010 they were down to 7,500 - again it's about a 30 per cent decline."
He said the only way to solve the problem was for voters to push to bring back strong controls and better policy around land clearing and the destruction of koala habitat ahead of the March State Elections.
"What's happening now is most clearing can happen as a right, and they are all governed by codes," he said.
"You don't have to apply for a permit anymore, as long as you follow these codes you can clear as long as you notify local land services.
"We are asking voters to meet with candidates about the issue ... there is a letter box drop happening this Sunday in Lismore. We've worked with the Nature conservation Council, to develop a set of ten asks of all the political parties coming in to the next election and beyond the election."
The Save Our Koalas Community Forum was held at Lismore City Hall was held to discuss the extinction risk facing koalas on the North Coast and policy responses required to ensure their long-term survival.
Among the key speakers were Uncle Herb Roberts, Elder-Widjabul Wyabu tribe of the Bundjalung Nation, Kate Smolski, CEO-NSW Nature Conservation Council, Dr Roslyn Irwin, President-Friends of the Koala and Dailan Pugh, President-North East Forest Alliance.
- WWF-Australia this year reported koalas were on track to extinction in NSW as early as 2050 without a significant reduction in tree clearing, mitigation of climate change and major expansion of protected areas.[ii]
- 99% of koala habitat on private land in NSW can be bulldozed under new laws the Berejiklian government introduced last year (Biodviersty Conservation Act).
- Bulldozing of bushland for tripled in just one part of the state in the 12 months of the new laws, destroying 5000 hectares of koala habitat.