FCA Briefing – Australia Plans a large Koala National Park

Words – Barbara Barkhausen

Did you know that Australia is planning a large koala national park?

The fight against species extinction

In eastern Australia, the survival of the koala is being threatened and the animal is projected to face extinction in the wild by 2050. The Great Koala National Park, which connects over 300,000 hectares of state forest and existing national parks, is intended to save Australia’s iconic animal. It has the potential to be a globally-significant model for protected areas. But the tug of war over the project is larger than expected…

The Great Koala National Park will span the region from Kempsey to Coffs Harbor. The government of New South Wales, where the national park is located and koalas are officially endangered, has budgeted $80 million in its 2023/24 state budget over four years to support the development of the park. “The koala occupies a unique cultural position – both in Australia and internationally,” says Timothy Cadman, a researcher at the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University. If this is not taken into account, it could even have political consequences, the expert says.

Action is indeed urgently needed: koalas, like so many other animals, are endemic to the fifth continent. This means they only exist in Australia. And their numbers on the east coast halved between 2000 and 2020, due mainly to habitat loss. While at the beginning of British settlement, an estimated ten million koalas populated the continent, Australia’s environmental agency now estimates the Australia-wide koala population to be between just under 290,000 and a maximum of 628,000. Some animal protection organisations even assume there are fewer animals. “The estimates of numbers don’t separate the translocated koalas from the wild population. If this is taken into consideration the numbers of wild koalas are much lower,” Mr Cadman says.

The tragic bushfires at the turn of 2019/2020 killed or injured more than 60,000 koalas, according to a report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF). Those which survived the flames themselves often died in the weeks and months following the trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, lack of food, or loss of habitat.

When: Tuesday, 23 April, 11am via Zoom

E – Barbara(at)journalistenbuero-sydney.com

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Here is a summary of Mr Cadman’s concerns: 

1) the exclusion of core plantation habitat from the park
2) the high-quality forest being overlooked because it is zoned plantation (which it is not) 
3) the condition of the native forest habitat which is included (often quite poor) 
4) ongoing logging in core habitat.
5) the explicit exclusion of World Heritage status for the park from the terms of reference for the government consultation process means (considering 1-4 above) the park will not be viable as a koala sanctuary.

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