It is feared that the koala population may become extinct in parts of Australia by 2050, partly due to the devastating wildfires that occurred several months ago. This is a finding of a recent inquiry established by the New South Wales parliament, because koalas are beloved and there is significant concern about their future.

A koala in a tree
Koalas are threatened by the ongoing destruction of their habitat © Emma Shaw/Lonely Planet

According to the report, the 2019 - 2020 bushfires caused a massive loss of at least 5000 koalas, but even before that, it was clear that the koala in NSW was in significant trouble. Other factors threatening the population include the ongoing destruction of their habitat through the clearing of land for agriculture, development, mining and forestry, which has severely impacted most koala populations in the state over many decades. The report found that this fragmentation and loss of habitat poses the most serious threat to the survival of the koala, and says that stronger action must be taken to protect and restore their habitats on both public and private land.

Koala mother with baby joey on its back sitting in a eucalyptus tree
Fragmentation and loss of habitat poses the most serious threat to koala populations © Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock

Many koala populations were also found to have suffered terribly through drought conditions that have plagued NSW for years. Climate change is having a severe impact on koalas, not only by affecting the quality of their food and habitat, but also by compounding the severity and threats of other impacts, such as drought and bushfires. The committee heard stories from wildlife carers about high numbers of koalas being brought into their care that were malnourished and dehydrated, or descending from trees to drink from garden hoses and water bowls.

A koala eating eucalyptus leaves
High numbers of koalas have become malnourished and dehydrated © Kamonrat/Shutterstock

"I particularly encourage the government to investigate the establishment of the Great Koala National Park on the NSW Mid North Coast without delay," says report committee chair, Cate Faehrmann. "The only way our children's grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee's recommendations." To read the full report and recommendations, please see here.

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