Canberra, Nov 23: The Australian government announced a new strategy to protect the country’s iconic koalas.
In a statement, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said that under the new strategy a national koala population census will be undertaken to identify key habitat areas and protect them.
“This is a line in the sand, we’re ruling a line under where we are on koalas right now.
“We are doing this because it needs to happen. I have been so frustrated that no one could give me the data I needed… It’s just not there – only in patches.
“I don’t think there’s been enough national leadership on this iconic species before,” she added.
The policy includes A$14 million in funding for habitat restoration and A$4 million for koala health research and the census.
It will also make it mandatory for state and territory governments to report on koala populations and conservation strategies on an annual basis.
The data collected in the initial census will be used by the government to prevent state and territory governments from weakening habitat protection, potentially putting the federal government on a collision course with state planning regimes for agricultural land clearing and urban development.
Helene Marsh, the chair of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, described the census as a “very significant move,” saying that there were “lots of places where koalas occur where we know very, very little” about the population.
“It will enable us to have the empirical data on what are the most important populations in the region, and will set a firm baseline for trends,” she said.
“It will put the whole koala strategy at national level on a completely different footing than it’s been in the past.”
In the 2019-20 “Black Summer” wildfires, roughly 5,000 koalas had perished.