By Juliano Oliveira
The Queensland Government plans to set aside an area twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory for koalas’ protection.
In the wake of multiple bushfires that have been destroying forests in some states, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk released a landmark draft strategy and mapping that outline measures to protect the koalas’ natural habitat in South East Queensland.
“New mapping identifies more than 570,000 hectares of land to be declared koala priority areas – an area that is twice the size of the ACT – of which more than 300,000 hectares is core habitat,” said the premier.
The administration also defends stronger regulations to limit clearing in these large interconnected areas of high-quality habitat. “Ensuring the protection of these large corridors of land will address one of the main causes of a declining koala population, which is the destruction of habitat.”
Population feedback on the new strategy and mapping is expected by the government. Consultation on the mapping closes on 22 December 2019 and consultation on the strategy closes on 31 January 2020.
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said the strategy was based on the best available science to protect habitat and give koalas the best chance of survival.
“Sadly, science has shown that koala populations have decreased by 50-80% in South East Queensland habitat areas over about 20 years and nearly three quarters of essential koala habitat has already been destroyed,” she said.
Minister Enoch said koala habitat areas in the strategy “were identified using internationally recognised, state-of-the-art modelling, including two decades of koala sighting records, scientific research and existing mapping by local councils. ”
The strategy has been developed in consultation with a dedicated Koala Advisory Council, which includes members of both conservation and development sectors as well as koala experts, First Nations representatives and local government.