Not just the koala that’s endangered, it’s the habitat

By Mitch Gaynor

THE Federal Government is paying “lip service” to the issue of koala protection and regeneration, with multiple organisations critical of  both a $50 million protection fund and the beloved animal’s status upgrade to ‘endangered’.

Visiting Australia Zoo recently, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would invest $50 million to ‘boost the long-term protection and recovery efforts for koalas’.

“Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and best recognised icons, both here at home and across the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come,” Mr Morrison said.

Just days later the animal’s status was upgraded from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ in Queensland, News South Wales and the ACT.

That move was labelled a “token gesture” by the Australian Koala Foundation.

Koala protection groups including Koala Action Inc. president Vanda Grabowski said the funding announcement lacked meaningful detail and nothing would improve without increasing habitat.

“Stop clearing. I’ve been saying the same thing since 1993. Stop clearing,” she said.

“That $50 million is meant to go across all states that have koalas. When you break that down it’s not much money to divvy up.”

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) shared a similar sentiment and extended an invitation to Mr Morrison to meet to discuss best measures to protect koalas.

“Posing with a cuddly Koala and announcing a big chunk of money is undeniably a vote winner,” AKF Chair Deborah Tabart OAM said.

Ms Tabart said the endangered status was also a pointless gesture if land clearing continued.

“This change in status is too little, too late,” she said.

“The Federal Government may be offering our koalas a nice new word, but behind all the photo opportunities and political rhetoric they continue to approve the destruction of koala habitat.

“If the clearing of koala habitat continues, a further status change is imminent – from ‘endangered’ to ‘extinct’.”

She said if the Federal Government is serious about saving the species, the $50 million should go to proper mapping to know where the Koalas are or could be.

“For over three decades, AKF has engaged the very best scientific minds to develop detailed habitat mapping, population data and carefully considered solutions to save the koala,” she said.