A koala census won’t save our national treasure and a moratorium on the clearing of critical habitat is still urgently needed, the Greens say.
Responding to Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s announcement yesterday of a koala census to identify key habitats, Greens Environment Spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, noted that “a koala census won’t save our national treasure from the Morrison Government”.
Government ignores koala census data
According to Hanson-Young, “koalas have been counted in critical habitat areas only for the Government to ignore that data and approve mining and development projects that imperil the koalas calling that land home.
“Just last month, the Environment Minister approved a quarry at Pt Stephens which will destroy 52ha of critical habitat for the endangered species,” she said. “Unless habitat clearing is stopped, koalas will soon be extinct.”
In her statement, Minister Ley said a national audit of koala populations would be a key component of an $18-million package to help protect Australia’s iconic species.
Too little information, say scientists
The package is to include funding for health research and medical support, as well as the restoration of key habitat sites through on-ground actions such as revegetation, weed control, fencing, managed grazing and tailored fire planning and implementation.
“For all our focus on koalas, scientists are telling us that there is a serious lack of data about where populations actually are, how they are faring and the best ways to help them recover after the devastating bushfires,” Ley said.
“$2 million from this package will be devoted to filling those gaps, identifying where koala habitat areas can be expanded and establishing an annual monitoring program.”
Moratorium on koala habitat clearing
The Minister added that annual reporting on koala populations and conservation strategies will become a mandatory agenda item at Meetings of National Environment Ministers, and a range of techniques will be employed – from scat monitoring to drone and acoustic surveys, detector dogs and citizen science surveys.
Meanwhile, Hanson-Young said the Greens will move in the Parliament for a moratorium on habitat clearing to save the koala from extinction.
“Off the back of the worst bushfires in history which killed a third of NSW’s koala population and destroyed millions of hectares of habitat across the country, no approvals for developments on koala land should be given,” she stated.