The government of New South Wales has announced an intervention package worth a whopping $45 million that is intended to protect the endangered koala population.
Thousands of hectares of lands would be allocated for the endangered species, which has seen its numbers fall by an estimated 26% over the last 20 years in NSW.
Nearly 25,000 hectares of state forest located in the mid-north coast would be officially turned into a habitat for koalas. In addition, a new koala hospital would be set up at Port Stephens. There, sick and injured koalas would be taken cared of as part of numerous measures to safeguard the Australian icon.
According to NSW Premier, Gladys Berejikilian, the reserve is also meant to be a breeding ground for the koalas.
“We know that there are around 36,000 koalas left in the state, but we don’t know that for sure,” Berejikilian said in an announcement that was made from the Taronga Zoo. “It would be such a shame if this nationally iconic marsupial did not have its future secured.”
The Government’s primary goal is to stabilise and later on, raise the population of the popular marsupials.
More than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat would be utilised as new koala reserves. Over 4,000 hectares of native forest on the Mid North Coast would also be transferred to the National Parks Estate.
Roughly $20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust would be used to buy land with prime koala habitat that could be permanently made into national parks.
Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the plan was an extensive policy that involved resolving road kill hotspots, launching more vaccines, doing more studies, and involving local communities. The campaign to conserve koalas were informed by a 2016 review of the state’s dip of koala populations, that was led by the state’s chief scientist Professor Mary O’Kane.
Also involved in the review was Professor Rebecca Johnson, the director of science at the Australia Museum. Johnson said the strategy was very exciting as it “embeds science as policy”.
“It’s an excellent first step … the most important thing is trees for them to live in, and leaves for them to eat,” Johnson said. “Koala conservation is complicated — they have a very coastal distribution, they have a very specific diet, of largely, entirely eucalyptus leaves. They’ve suffered the impacts of urbanisation when land is cleared for developments or housing.”
Other moves in the Government’s strategy include producing a network of koala and wildlife hospitals and setting up a single wildlife rescue call number. The strategies would be applied and monitored over a span of three years, and reviewed once again in 2021.