Our Beloved Koalas Could Be Extinct By As Early As 2050

Koalas might be an emblem of Australia, but they're facing extinction in New South Wales due to land clearing.

Already the state has seen its koala population slashed by 33 percent over the last two decades, according to the state branch of the Wilderness Society.

"NSW has lost a third of its koala population in just 20 years, while the North Coast koala population has been slashed in half," said campaign manager Julie Courtemanche.

"Koala habitat is being lost to bulldozers, logging and rampant housing development.

"The plight of the koala is only going to get worse in NSW, with the state government cutting controls on deforestation and considering changing logging rules allowing koala habitat to be logged."

Koalas are listed as a vulnerable species by the federal government, with just 21,000 left in NSW, and 167,000 left in Queensland.

The koala population has fallen by 42 percent across NSW and Queensland combined in just two decades, according to the Environment Department. Photo: Getty.

Land-clearing in NSW soared by 800 percent over three years under the Gladys Berejiklian government, according to a report obtained by Guardian Australia in August.

A total of 900 hectares of native vegetation were cleared in 2013-14, but that jumped to well over 7,000 in 2015-16.

It comes after the Berejiklian government replaced the Native Vegetation Act with the less stringent Biodiversity Conservation Act, which allowed farmers and landowners to self assess whether they needed to make a formal application to clear land.

Increasing habitat destruction is a key threat to the koala population said the World Wildlife Fund.

Other threats include disease and climate change, but it is habitat destruction that can be effectively abated at a state or national level.

"Unfortunately, the repeal of the NSW Native Vegetation Act has only worsened the threat," a report from September said.

The Wildlife Foundation is calling for a strengthening of land-clearing laws, as well as for the government to urgently end the deforestation and land-clearing "crisis".

"People in NSW need to know the impacts that land clearing, logging and urban development have on threatened species such as koalas," said Courtemanche.

"By destroying their homes, we are pushing them to the brink of extinction. And once they're gone, they're gone."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Getty