Australia has officially listed the koala as an endangered species across most of its east coast after a dramatic decline in numbers due to land clearing and massive bushfires.
The Australian government said the listing was for Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory, where the koala had been designated as “vulnerable” in 2012.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended the listing, following a joint nomination by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Australia in March 2020.
“The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanization, and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the advice,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said.
Animal welfare and conservation groups described the listing as “a grim but important outcome that requires urgent action.”
WWF-Australia warned that east coast koalas are at risk of disappearing altogether if stronger protections are not put into place.
“Koalas have gone from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered within a decade. That is a shockingly fast decline. Today’s decision is welcome, but it won’t stop koalas from sliding towards extinction unless it’s accompanied by stronger laws and landholder incentives to protect their forest homes,” WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr. Stuart Blanch said in a statement.
Ley said that officials were forming a recovery plan and that land development applications would now be assessed for impact on the species.
The listing came after the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in January a record $50 million investment to boost protection and recovery efforts for koalas.
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