Australian activists urge gov’t to adopt Koala Protection Act

Sydney, Australia, Jun 22 (EFE).- Environmental activists on Wednesday presented a draft protection bill to the Australian government that seeks to ensure the survival of koalas and their habitat, the Australian Koala Foundation told Efe.

The Koala Protection Act argues that although there are existing national and regional laws for environmental protection, these are not enough to save the marsupials from extinction and the foundation says that a law that focuses specifically on koalas is needed.

“We are arguing that every koala in Australia needs the same laws, the same rules for the industries that are currently cutting down trees,” Deborah Tabart, the foundation’s chair who sent the legislative proposal to the new environment minister Tanya Plibersek this week, told Efe in a telephone interview.

The NGO says one of the main challenges is that there is divergent regulation on the issue of tree felling depending on the regional government and the lobbying pressures they face from the timber and urban development industries.

The protection of koalas also differs according to jurisdiction, while in the states of Queensland and New South Wales the mammals were downgraded from vulnerable to an endangered species, in Victoria, koalas are classed as vulnerable.

The activist says one of the key challenges is that regional governments do not sanction industries that destroy the animal’s habitats nor do they punish those involved in accidental killings, which often happen when vast swathes of trees are being felled.

The accidental death of koalas has been a recurring tragedy in southern Australia, where 13 koalas were found dead and two were incinerated this month in two separate incidents in Victoria.

It is not the first time this has happened. In 2020, authorities found 21 dead koalas in Victoria and a further 49 animals were euthanized after they were found injured on a timber plantation.

Over 60,000 koalas were affected by the devastating 2020-21 Black Summer bushfires that swept across Queensland and New South Wales, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

The koala is endemic to Australia and is facing extinction due to the destruction of its habitats by fires and the felling of trees.

In addition, the creatures are vulnerable to road accidents when crossing highways, attacks from other wild and domestic animals and chlamydia disease, which causes lesions on their genitals and eyes causing infertility and blindness and leading to a slow and painful death.

Data on the population of wild koalas varies widely. Authorities estimate some 450,000 koalas are living in southern Australia while 180,000 are in the east. The Australian Koala Foundation warns there are only between 50,000 and 80,000 koalas across the entire country. EFE


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