According to a year-long parliamentary inquiry released on Tuesday, koalas are on track to become extinct in the state of New South Wales sometime in the next thirty years.

Numbers are dwindling in the koala community as a result of the destruction of their habitat, which was compounded by the 2019-20 bushfires in Australia. The fires wiped out close to one-quarter of the marsupials’ habitat on public land. 

If no urgent action is taken to preserve their habitat, the koalas could be extinct way before 2050. 

Koalas
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"The committee agrees with evidence that koalas were tracking to become extinct by 2050 before the bushfires," reads the inquiry. "The committee expresses its sadness and concern for the once-thriving Pilliga population, which has become extinct over the last decade."

The Sydney Morning Herald relayed that the leveling of the forests in which the koalas live played a large role in their increased vulnerability to extinction.

"[To their] detriment, koalas like many of the same things that humans do, such as fertile soils, moderate temperatures and forests," said the report.

Furthermore, climate change, which interferes with the nutritional quality of eucalyptus plants, has damaged the animals’ main food source and had "a severe impact on koala populations".

The inquiry recommends things New South Wales can do to help protect the koalas such as creating a new National Park, ruling out the opening of new areas for the purposes of logging, and establishing a chain of strategically placed wildlife hospitals.

Koalas
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"This report must be a game changer for koalas and the protection of their habitat in NSW," said the inquiry's chairwoman. "We need action now if we are to secure the future of the koala in NSW and that means protecting more koala habitat."

"If we can’t protect koala habitat after the outpouring of support for the koala after the bushfires, then what hope do we have?" she continued. "By protecting koala habitat we also protect the habitat of many other threatened species."

Environment Minister Matt Kean said that koalas are "an iconic Australian animal recognized the world over, and a national treasure which we will do everything we can to protect for future generations."

[Via]