Statement to Inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales
Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House, 16 August 2019.
Spoken by Dr Stuart Blanch, Australian Forest & Woodland Conservation Policy Manager, WWF-Australia
I am puzzled. Why do people hate koalas? Why are we so keen seemingly to kill them off?
Koala numbers have fallen more than 90% since the British colonisation and invasion, from as many as 10 million to perhaps fewer than 200,000 nationwide.
This is our national icon, the face of forests, an Australian ambassador.
Yet most people only see them now in zoos, or souvenir shops.
WWF projects koalas are at risk of disappearing from the state’s forests and woodlands by as early as 2050, based on the most authoritative state-wide datasets published by koala experts and government advisors.
Koalas are our orangutans. Deforestation is driving both towards extinction.
And koalas are our polar bears. Climate change is driving both towards extinction.
Yet there is hope! Extinction is not inevitable.
To save koalas we need to stop destroying their forests. They need a safe, stable climate. They need an expanded network of protected areas as sanctuaries.
Farmers, Traditional Owners, landcarers and regional communities who save and grow forests for koalas should receive more funding.
We can re-koala landscapes with millions of hectares of new habitat.
To illustrate a solution, koalas have been recolonising areas around Armidale following three decades of reforestation. Koalas are moving to higher altitudes to escape a hotter drier climate.
So, we have two options.
We can let koalas keep heading towards extinction through deforestation. That’s the Orangutan option.
Or we can choose the Giant Panda option. China protected core habitat, created major new protected areas, and World Heritage listed national parks and the pandas.
I urge the Committee to choose the panda option.