Australia’s environment minister has said that koalas along much of the country’s eastern coast are now endangered.
Sussan Ley said that the koalas in New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory – areas where the species had been listed as vulnerable – would now be classified as endangered.
Ms Ley said: “The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past 20 years have led to the advice.
“The new listing highlights the challenges the species is facing and ensures that all assessments under the act will be considered not only in terms of their local impacts, but with regard to the wider koala population.”
Australia has lost about 30% of its koalas over the past three years, according to the Australian Koala Foundation, with the worst figures seen in New South Wales, where numbers have dropped by 41%.
A study by World Wide Find for Nature estimated that bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020 killed or injured more than 60,000 koalas.
International Fund for Animal Welfare Manager Josey Sharrad said: “We should never have allowed things to get to the point where we are at risk of losing a national icon.
“If we can’t protect an iconic species endemic to Australia, what chance do lesser known but no less important species have?”