Koalas could face extinction in Australia's New South Wales by 2050, report warns

The marsupials face numerous threats to their habitat

An official report warns that koalas could be extinct by 2050 in the Australian state of New South Wales.

The report, put together by a cross-party group of New South Wales lawmakers, warns that bushfires in the state have devastated the Koala population and their habitat.

“Given the scale of loss to koala populations across New South Wales as a result of the 2019-2020 bushfires and without urgent government intervention to protect habitat and address all other threats, the koala will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050,” the report says.

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At least 5,000 koalas died in the fires and possibly more, according to the report, noting that the official government estimate of 36,000 koalas in the state is “outdated and unreliable.”

A koala named Pete from Pappinbarra at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on Nov. 29, 2019, in Port Macquarie, Australia.

A koala named Pete from Pappinbarra at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on Nov. 29, 2019, in Port Macquarie, Australia. (Photo by Nathan Edwards/Getty Images)

“There has been a substantial loss of both suitable koala habitat and koalas across New South Wales as a result of the 2019-2020 bushfires,” the report says. “An estimated 24 percent of koala habitat on public land has been severely impacted across the State, but in some parts there has been a devastating loss of up to 81 percent.”

Other threats to the marsupials in New South Wales include logging, which has also impacted their habitat, and climate change, the report says. “Climate change is compounding the severity and impact of other threats, such as drought and bushfires, on koala populations,” it explains.

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The report urges the New South Wales government to “urgently prioritize” the protection of koala habitat in areas where urban growth is planned and find “the most appropriate method” for surveying koala numbers.

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Koalas are described as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources on its Red List of species.

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