Endangered Koala must be protected, made the Qld Olympics Mascot

On Friday, 8 April 2022, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science completed the process of updating the conservation status of 19 wildlife species, including 6 fauna and 13 flora species. One of these updates was the uplifting of the koala to ‘endangered’ status, with immediate effect. 

“The uplifting of the koala from vulnerable to endangered in Queensland is a heart-breaking and necessary act for this iconic Australian animal, '' said Jon Ferguson, Nature Campaigner for the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC). “This listing of the Koala as endangered in Queensland should be sounding alarm bells. We can’t stand by and let this species disappear. 

“When the world comes to visit Brisbane for the Olympics, we will be judged on how we have acted to protect endangered species like the koala.  

We call on the Queensland Government to declare the koala as the mascot for the 2032 Olympics, as a marker of the State’s commitment to restore and rejuvenate koala populations by 2032.

However, this symbolic action must be accompanied by four tangible actions as a matter of urgency

  1. Close loopholes in the Vegetation Management Act (VMA) that allow clearing of koala habitat. Recent analysis by The Wilderness Society of data from the Government’s Statewide Landcover and Trees Survey showed that nearly 14% of the 680,688 hectares (ha) of land cleared in Queensland in 2018-19 was known or likely koala habitat. It can be assumed that more has been cleared in the 3 years since then; we’ll know exactly how much when the Government finally releases the data for 2019-20 and 2020-21 later this year. In the meantime, the Government can make significant inroads into reducing this clearing by closing loopholes in the VMA that allow clearing of koala habitat with little or no regulatory oversight. 
  2. Expand and extend the SEQ Koala Conservation Strategy to create a more robust statewide koala conservation strategy. The koala’s new endangered status further supports the QCC’s continuing efforts to get the Queensland Government to expand its 5-year South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2020 to rehabilitate and restore more than the 10,000 ha of habitat set out in the strategy. In fact, research released by QCC at the end of last year showed that at least 70,000 ha of habitat in SEQ needed to be rehabilitated and restored to make any kind of significant impact. However, whilst this strategy provides additional protections for koalas in SEQ, it does nothing for the koala habitat being cleared in places like Gympie.
  3. Increase funding for the Protected Areas Strategy. Koalas and other threatened species depend on National Parks and private protected areas, and Queensland, with only 8.2%, currently has the lowest percentage of land protected in Australia. We call on the Government to fund its Protected Areas Strategy with sufficient resources to establish and manage new National Parks and double protected areas by 2032. 
  4. Strengthen environmental laws that were weakened under the Newman Government. Changes to the Nature Conservation Act took the authority to deny the granting of Environmental Authorities away from the Department of Environment and Science (DES). This means that they now can only recommend that developments and projects that would destroy Koala habitat be denied but have no ability to stop them. This authority needs to be returned to DES.

“We can save the Koala and other threatened species, but we must act now, follow the advice of conservation scientists and protect their habitats from the destruction that drives extinctions,” says Jon Ferguson. 

For further information and comment, contact: 

Jon Ferguson, Nature Campaigner, Queensland Conservation Council

0431 470 328