Seventeen of the state’s 20 deforestation hotspots contain koala habitat at risk of land clearing under new state environmental laws, a report by the NSW Nature Conservation Council, WWF-Australia, The Wilderness Society and National Parks Association of NSW has found.
Deforestation is worst in the state’s central west and northwest, with pockets of excessive land clearing on the north coast, in the Hunter Valley and in the state’s southwest.
Overlaying the hotspots with Federal Environment Department maps of koala habitat where koalas are known or likely to occur revealed that 17 of the 20 deforestation hotspots contained substantial areas of koala habitat adding up to almost 7 million hectares.
“Our research shows deforestation is worst in areas with some of the most vulnerable koala populations left in NSW,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.
“High rates of deforestation in areas with koala habitat is a major risk for this iconic species, especially west of the Great Dividing Range where the deadly effects of climate change on koala populations is most acute.
“Without a dramatic change, koalas and other species that rely on forests and woodlands for their survival will continue their catastrophic decline.”
WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said: “Most people in NSW don’t realise that it is easy and legal to destroy koala habitats. In just one of these deforestation hotspots, more than 5000 hectares of koala habitat were bulldozed in 12 just months.
“Laws must be changed to stop the industrial-scale deforestation that is taking place throughout NSW. If we do this, we could prevent the extinction of koalas in NSW by as early as 2050.”
The Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneider said: "The koala is facing an extinction epidemic in NSW, with some estimates saying this iconic animal could be extinct in the state by 2050.
“A third of the koala population has been wiped out in NSW in just 20 years, while the North Coast koala population has been slashed in half."
What the NSW Government must do
To address the koala population crisis, we are calling on the NSW Government to:
· Ban clearing of koala habitat on all land tenures
· Create wildlife corridors to let koalas move between remnant of habitat
· Finalise and release koala habitat mapping at state, regional and local scales.
What can Australians do to help protect koalas?
WWF-Australia and the Nature Conservation Council have launched petitions today to call on both sides of government to take action to protect koalas in NSW for future generations.
Nature Conservation Council: www.nature.org.au/savekoalas
Towards Zero Deforestation: A plan to end deforestation and excessive land clearing in NSW