Aussie koala conservation group sounds alarm on 30-pct population decline

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SYDNEY, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- A new report from the conservation group Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) on Monday said the country's koala population has declined by a staggering 30 percent in just three years.

The report showed that koala populations across Australia have dropped from an estimated high of 82,170 in 2018 to between 32,065 to 57,920 in 2021.

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) saw the largest drop-off, with a decline of 41 percent of its koala population since 2018, with the devastating 2019-20 bushfires a likely contributor.

Chair of the AKF Deborah Tabart said habitat loss from the bushfires, though a major factor, makes up just one piece of the puzzle.

"We have witnessed a drastic decrease in inland populations because of drought, heat waves, and lack of water for Koalas to drink," said Tabart.

Beyond natural and indirect human impacts, Tabart also outlined the direct impacts of human activity.

"Land clearing is lethal to Koala populations. Over the past few years, we have seen huge land clearance particularly across NSW and South East Queensland, for farming, housing development and mining."

The data marked the first time koala populations have been assessed across electorates -- areas represented by federally appointed ministers; it found that koala populations have gone extinct in 47 of a total of 128 electorate areas which have once supported koala populations.

Furthermore, populations in many electorate areas were shown to be dwindling in the single digits.

Tabart said the AKF has employed this form of population assessment by local government area in order to effectively communicate the impact on communities, and hold authorities accountable for their local area.

"Each and every federal politician in these electorates should now be on notice to protect not only the koalas in their electorate but the habitat that remains," she said

The organization has also enlisted what they have dubbed a "koala army," which encourages everyday Australians to appeal to their local governmental representatives to commit to greater protections for koalas in the form of a Koala Protection Act.

The Koala Protection Act was described by the AKF as "unassailable, and will see Koalas receive the highest level of protection of any animal species in Australian history."

The AKF's website allows users to search if their local minister has yet declared their support for the act.

"Urgent action to stop land clearing in prime Koala habitat is required if we are to save our beloved national animal from peril," she said. Enditem

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