Will the Australian government admit the nation's koalas are in serious trouble?

Why are koalas vulnerable?

Time is running out for wild koalas and their habitat. To survive, koalas need large areas of healthy, safe and connected bushland. Without national protection, local populations will continue to quietly disappear.

Koalas need national protection

Wild koala populations are in serious decline. Although the species covers a massive area, only 'pieces' of koala habitat remain. These pieces need to be managed, protected and restored in a coordinated way. Right now, too many are being lost to weeds, cleared for agriculture, or carved up by developers. Other threats come from logging, poor management, attacks from feral and domestic animals, disease and roads. The Federal Government needs to step in and begin large-scale recovery. It needs to list the koala as a nationally 'vulnerable' species throughout its natural range.

Koalas are important

Koalas bring around $1 billion of tourism dollars into Australia each year. The koala is part of Australian culture; a symbol of the bush and our unique wildlife. Saving koala habitat helps thousands of other species.

Bad news for the koala

As many of you will know, in July 2004, we submitted a nomination to the Federal Government to have the koala listed as a nationally threatened species. After several lengthy delays, the Minister and his scientific committee have finally come to a decision.

It’s with a mixture of regret, relief and determination that I can inform you the answer is “no”. Why regret? Because it pains me to tell you that our Government will not show leadership and take responsibility for this species. Relief - because at least now we know that no amount of scientific proof will protect the koala at a national level under our current inadequate laws. And determination - because we now know exactly what to do from this point on.

First of all, the Board and I wish to express our immense gratitude to all of you for supporting the nomination and, through your support, enabling us to give it our very best shot. We were able to bring together the very best hearts, minds and science in the world of koala conservation. Well done to my team and to everyone who supported us. What a phenomenal effort!

Next, I am proud to announce that since the Government refuses to take action, we will write the legislation ourselves – we are now going to write the world’s first National Koala Act. We have some of the best legal minds “on standby” and are determined to come up with something fresh and innovative that combines biodiversity, planning and tax-related legislation and incentives. We have told the Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, of our plans.

We have big news from Queensland too. You may remember that back in March 2004, the State Government acted on our advice and changed the official listing of south east Queensland's koalas from ‘common’ to 'vulnerable'. Since then, they’ve been writing a Koala Conservation Plan. When the first draft was released in January 2005, we began to meet with their policy makers and scientists, outlining to them the flaws in the Plan and explaining how it could be made meaningful for koalas. We’ve continued to apply the pressure (including meetings with Queensland Environment Minister Desley Boyle) and just recently, were rewarded with a ‘sign’ that we might be starting to get through to them.

This June, the Queensland Government announced special funding for koala protection - $2.1 million in the 2006-07 budget to implement the Koala Plan due for release later this year. In her press statement, Minister Boyle said "Koala populations are dwindling and experts warn that unless urgent action is taken, this iconic species could become extinct from parts of South East Queensland. These areas - especially in the Redlands and around Pine Rivers - are some of the most significant koala habitat in Australia," and among other things, the Plan “will ensure that in important habitat areas, development is compatible with the survival of koala populations.”

As well as stressing the need to impose constraints on developers, we have been pushing the importance of mapping and ‘interoperable data’ (maps used by the different state government departments - instead of each of them doing their own thing).

Although we will keep on their backs, we are optimistic that a meaningful plan can be created that might even form a basis for the first parts of our National Koala Act.

Deborah Tabart,
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Koala Foundation

Voice your concern for koalas by supporting our nomination.

FEDERAL NOMINATION - submission document (.pdf file)

Supporting Documents:

Appendix 1 (.pdf file)
Appendix 2 (.pdf file)
Appendix 3 (.pdf file)
Appendix 4 (.pdf file)
Appendix 5 (.pdf file)
Appendix 6 (.pdf file)
Appendix 7 (.pdf file)
Appendix 8 (.pdf file)
Appendix 9 (.pdf file)
Appendix 10 (.pdf file)
Appendix 11 (.pdf file)
Appendix 12 (.pdf file)
Appendix 13 (.pdf file)
Appendix 14 (.pdf file)

Moggill Koala Hospital Statistics (.pdf file)
Population Modelling Graphs (.pdf file)

Technical Reports related to the Nomination:

Conserving koala populations in a fragmented landscape (Noosa Queensland). (.pdf file)
Conserving Southeast Queensland Koalas: How much habitat is enough? (.pdf file)

Ministers Rejection
Letter and Supporting Document (.pdf file)