Koala habitat destruction triples after NSW protection axed

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Koala drinking beside a road, March 2017 (© Sue Gedda / WWF-Australia).

SATELLITE imagery shows a massive spike in the destruction of NSW koala forests, with the rate of tree clearing tripling in the state’s north since the axing of the NSW Native Vegetation Act in August 2017.

Following the removal of laws protecting koala forests, more than 5,000 hectares of koala habitat has been bulldozed in the NSW districts of Moree and Collarenebri at a rate of about 14 football fields a day, a new report by WWF-Australia and the NSW Nature Conservation Council has found.

HIGHLIGHTS

Since the repeal of the NSW Native Vegetation Act, in the Moree-Collarenebri region:

– Clearing almost tripled. 8,194 ha was cleared in 2017-18, up from 2,845ha in 2016-17. See Table 1 in the report.
– 14ha of koala habitat was bulldozed each day in 2017-18 (5,246ha habitat destroyed). The koala is designated as vulnerable to extinction under commonwealth and state law.
– 19ha of Painted Honeyeater habitat was bulldozed each day in 2017-18 (6,942ha of habitat destroyed). The Painted Honeyeater is designated as vulnerable to extinction under commonwealth and state law.
– Habitat for 247 native species may have been destroyed in 2017-18, including habitat for nine species of National Environmental Significance.
– The Moree-Collarenebri region is already extensively cleared. Only 6% of the study area has forest remaining while 11% is sparse woodlands.

WWF-Australia conservationist Stuart Blanch said: “WWF-Australia estimates there are likely less than 20,000 koalas left in NSW and at the current rate, they are on track to be extinct in the state by as early as 2050. We have to stop this excessive tree-clearing if we want to keep koalas alive in the wild for future generations.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Our satellite imagery analysis confirms the dire predictions of the government’s own advisers, who warned the new laws would permit bulldozing of 99% of identified all koala habitat on private land in the state.

“The area where this habitat destruction has occurred is one of the most heavily cleared in the state, with only 6% of forest remaining while an additional 11% was in sparse woodlands.

“The NSW Government is responsible opening the floodgates to the destruction of koala forests and woodlands on a scale we have not seen for more than 20 years.

“This report looks at a fraction of the state, so we fear this spike in deforestation in the north is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The report concludes that repeal of the NSW Native Vegetation Act in August 2017 was likely the major reason behind the dramatic surge in forest and woodland destruction in this known clearing hotspot.

Story Source: WWF Australia

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