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On Save the Koala Day, the much-loved marsupial has moved a step closer to an endangered listing on the east coast, after a nomination by conservation groups who welcomed the increased attention on the plight of the species.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has added the combined koala populations of Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT to the priority list for assessment by her independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC).
She has given the committee a deadline of October 2021 to work through the science and make a recommendation on whether east coast koalas should be uplisted from vulnerable to endangered.
The priority assessment list was published this afternoon and can be viewed here, with the koala the only species added to the list after a nomination from the public.
Humane Society International (HSI), the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare jointly nominated the koala to be listed as endangered in March.
That followed severe population declines, made worse by the devastating bushfires of 2019-20.
The three organisations presented strong evidence, based on reports by Biolink environmental consultants, to support the nomination.
“We welcome prioritisation for the koala but also hope the process can be sped up and the koala listed as endangered before October 2021. Koalas are threatened by deforestation, bushfires, drought, dog attacks, vehicle collision and Chlamydia disease,” said HSI Head of campaigns Nicola Beynon.
“Since the nomination, WWF has published research showing a 71% decline in koala numbers at six fire grounds in northern NSW. Remaining koala forest must be protected, and patches of habitat reconnected, or a zoo will be the only place to see a koala on the east coast,” said WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Stuart Blanch.
“Koalas on the east coast are sliding towards extinction and should be listed as endangered. This is a koala emergency and immediate action is needed to bring this iconic species back from the brink of extinction,” said IFAW Wildlife Campaigner Josey Sharrad.
As an indication of their rapid decline, if east coast koalas are listed as endangered they will have gone from being not listed, to listed as vulnerable, to listed as endangered in the space of a decade.
The conservation groups also welcome the priority treatment for many other bushfire impacted species such as the greater glider, yellow-bellied glider, long-nosed bandicoot, long-nosed potoroo, and eight Kangaroo Island bird species.