As a result of the continued destruction of their habitat, which was only hastened by the 2019-20 bushfires that devastated Australia, koalas could be in danger of going extinct in the state of New South Wales in the near future, according to a year-long parliamentary inquiry.
This report, put out on Tuesday, reckons that the animals could die out well before 2050 if no urgent action is taken to prevent their habitat from being destroyed even further. It had been going off of estimates that there are 36,000 koalas in the state. But that figure is undoubtedly inflated in part because they hadn't factored in the effects of the fires, which had taken out nearly one-quarter of the marsupials' habitat on public land.
The above estimate of 36,000 koalas in the region actually came from a figure in 2012. That same number was cited in a 2016 report that calculated that a quarter of the animals' total population had been wiped out in just 15-21 years. Another estimate in this most recent report came from a senior ecologist at the National Parks Association of NSW, who guessed that the species had about 15,000-20,000 left in the wild prior to last summer's historically bad fires.
"The committee agrees with evidence that koalas were tracking to become extinct by 2050 before the bushfires," the inquiry said. "The committee expresses its sadness and concern for the once-thriving Pilliga population, which has become extinct over the last decade."
As relayed by The Sydney Morning Herald, the leveling of forests that house the animals is largely responsible for their dwindling numbers.
"[To their] detriment, koalas like many of the same things that humans do, such as fertile soils, moderate temperatures and forests," the report said.
Koalas, like a lot of animals, were already having a tough time due to climate change, which has had "a severe impact on koala populations," due (partially) to it fucking up the nutritional quality of the eucalyptus plants koalas love to eat.
Not surprisingly, this new document found that the NSW government needs to do more to protect koalas to ensure their survival.
Recommendations for the future include creating a new National Park to protect the population, ruling out the opening of new areas for the purposes of logging, and establishing a chain of strategically placed wildlife hospitals.
"This report must be a game changer for koalas and the protection of their habitat in NSW," the inquiry's chairwoman said. "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 added. "By protecting koala habitat we also protect the habitat of many other threatened species."
In addition to protecting the animals on moral grounds, Environment Minister Matt Kean added that it's important because of what it represents to the country. As he said, 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."