Queensland government pledges $12m to save declining koala populations
The Queensland government has admitted efforts to save koalas are failing and hopes $12 million in funding and an expert panel including scientists can salvage what's left of once healthy populations.
A dire scientific report, commissioned by the government, has found koalas are effectively extinct in parts of the state's south-east.
The government hopes $12 million in next Tuesday's budget will stop the catastrophic population decline recorded over the past 18 years.
The South East Queensland Koala Population Modelling Study found numbers are down by more than 80 percent on the Koala Coast - which is in and around Brisbane - and by 54 percent in the Pine Rivers region, north of the city.
A mother koala and her joey. (AAP file image)
Environment Minister Steven Miles said there was no sign that koala numbers are stabilising in the south-east, but hopes the new funding can change that.
Dr Miles said it was clear habitat protection efforts in developing areas like Pine Rivers have failed, and wants scientists behind the study to suggest new strategies.
"This isn't too surprising – they're the areas which have seen very substantial development, very substantial growth of urban sprawl in that period," he said.
A koala joey. (AAP file image)
Dr Miles said the government doesn't know how many koalas live in Queensland, despite the marsupial being listed as a vulnerable species.
He says there was not enough data to hazard a guess.
Other areas haven't necessarily seen the same declines as the south-east, because threats vary from region to region, he said.
Study author Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes will chair an expert panel that will advise the government on how best to protect the remaining koalas.
Koalas face threats from habitat loss, dogs and cats, and chlamydia. (AAP file image)
Australian Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart is also touring marginal electorates, hoping to pressure the federal government to do more to protect koalas ahead of the July election.
She is lobbying the major parties to support a new federal act to specifically protect koalas, something Dr Miles has so far declined to back.
"I think the public are sick of announcements of $12 million, of $5 million, of this, of that. It's time for us to start planning our cities properly," Ms Tabart said.
Meanwhile, the Greens said Australia needs a new environmental watchdog to ensure the survival of iconic species, including the koala.
The $12 million Queensland has promised will be provided over four years, and is in addition to ongoing funding of $2.6 million a year for koala protection.