Koalas Could Go Extinct Without Urgent Help, World Wildlife Fund Warns

The government should take swift action to save koala populations, the World Wildlife Fund has pleaded, as numbers of the iconic Australian animal continue to fall.

According to the WWF, koalas are heading for extinction in NSW and QLD, with excessive deforestation a key factor in the drastic population decline.

At least 9.6 million hectares of bush and forest was destroyed in both states between 1990 and 2016, dramatically thinning the koala habitat.

The WWF has proposed Australia’s first independent plan to save koalas from extinction.

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In NSW alone, 25 of 38 known koala populations are in decline, with only two thought to be stable, said ecologist David Paull.

"Australia is the only developed country on a global list of ‘deforestation hotspots'," he said.

Image: Getty Image

Between 1990 and 2010, koala populations in NSW and QLD fell by 42 percent, according to the Commonwealth Scientific Committee.

While there is not a widely-accepted number of total population, it is estimated there are between 15,000 to 28,000 koalas in NSW and 5000 to 20,000 in southeast Queensland.

Koalas in Eastern Australia were listed as 'vulnerable to extinction' six years ago, but WWFA's Dr Stuart Blanch said no national plan has been put into place to save koala populations and their declining numbers.

“So conservation groups brought together koala experts to draw up the first, independent-of-government, plan to save this much loved marsupial across Eastern Australia," he said.

Image: Getty Image

The WWF Koala Habitat Conservation Plan recommends state and federal governments pass laws to protect the habitats of koalas and introduce new national parks for priority koala populations.

"Australia holds the dubious title of having the worst mammal extinction rate in the world," said Josey Sharrad, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“The koala is now at risk of joining that list. This plan outlines the roadmap for protecting the koala and needs to be adopted at a national, state and local level as a matter of urgency."