A new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia shows the destruction of koala habitat actually increased after the iconic marsupial was listed as “vulnerable” in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT.
The analysis looked at clearing rates in known or likely koala habitat before and after the federal government listed the species as vulnerable in 2012 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
In Queensland, koala habitat destruction increased by about 7%, from an average annual loss of 16,199 ha over the period 2004-12, rising to 17,323 ha for 2012-18.
In NSW, koala habitat destruction increased by about 32%, from an average annual loss of 11,153 ha over the period 2004-12, jumping to 14,695 ha in the 2012-17 period.
Since the vulnerable listing, 177,411 ha of known or likely koala habitat has been cleared: 103,936 ha in Qld (up to mid-2018) and 73,475 ha in NSW (up to mid-2017).
Of this destruction, 80% was for livestock pasture in Queensland; while in NSW 62% was for forestry operations.
“The vulnerable listing under the EPBC Act demonstrably failed to protect koalas,” said report author and WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor.
“Instead of putting the brakes on the bulldozers, the destruction of koala habitat substantially increased,” Dr Taylor said.
Two new reports by consultants Biolink estimate that since 2001 Queensland’s koala population has crashed by at least 50% and the NSW population has declined by between 33% and 61%.
Biolink conservatively estimates the 2019-20 bushfires in NSW killed 6382 koalas up to mid-February.
These severe population declines prompted WWF-Australia and other groups to nominate the koala for uplisting from vulnerable to endangered.
“There is now a critical need to protect the koala made more urgent by losses in the mega fires. Conserving remaining koala habitat is vital,” said Dr Taylor.
“Under the EPBC Act, people are supposed to obtain permission before bulldozing threatened species habitat.
“But in the vast majority of cases this doesn’t happen and afterwards they are not investigated or prosecuted.
“The chronic lack of enforcement and failure to prevent habitat loss shows the Act isn’t working.
“Australia has failed to ensure compliance against our Nature Laws, and in doing so, has failed the koala.
“It’s time to strengthen and ensure compliance against the EPBC Act or we risk losing this species across Eastern Australia.
“Right now, the Australian Government is running a once in a 10-year review of the EPBC Act. But we only have until 17 April, 2020 to make our voices heard,” he said.
WWF-Australia is calling for the establishment of an independent national Environmental Protection Authority to ensure that governments and businesses do the right thing for our wildlife and wild places.
Send a submission by visiting: wwf.org.au/get-involved/stop-australias-extinction-crisis
Koala Habitat Clearing Report