Queensland has introduced its strongest-ever protections for koalas in the south-east of the state, promising to protect five times more existing habitat than ever before.
The South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy, launched by Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch on Saturday, will prohibit the clearing of another 330,000 hectares of koala habitat within certain priority areas.
More than 577,000 hectares in southeast Queensland are now identified as koala priority area and a total of 716,266 hectares has now been mapped as koala habitat.
“To put that in perspective, that is five times the amount of area protected previously under state government protections,” Ms Enoch told reporters on Saturday.
The new strategy will also require 10,000 hectares of the koala habitat be restored, and will see 10 threat mitigation programs introduced.
The Wilderness Society says the new strategy is a great step towards ensuring future generations can still spot koalas in their backyards.
Spokeswoman Dr Anita Cosgrove says she was heartened by the government’s willingness to go back to the drawing table and further bolster protections after community feedback on the draft strategy released earlier this year.
“It’s heartening to see the Government has listened to the community by providing more ambitious and tangible targets to lead action to better protect koalas,” said Dr Cosgrove.
“It’s a great improvement. It’s the strongest strategy that I’m aware of that has ever been in place for koalas in Queensland.”
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But while populations in south east Queensland are most threatened, Dr Cosgrove says better protections are needed across the whole state.
Koala numbers have reduced by almost 50 per cent state-wide, and some studies estimate that the species will go extinct in the wild by 2050 in some parts of Queensland unless action is taken to reverse population declines.
“It has taken almost six years to get to this point following the commissioning of the SEQ Koala Population Modelling Study,” she said.
“We can’t afford to wait another 6 years before taking action to protect koalas more broadly across Queensland.”