Leading wildlife organisations have nominated koalas to be classified as ‘endangered’ following horrific bushfires that devastated vast areas of their habitat. Stock image.

Three leading animal welfare organisations have called on Australian governments to increase legal protections for koalas Australia-wide, following horrific bushfires that wiped out a quarter of their habitat in NSW alone.

WWF Australia, the Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have jointly nominated koalas to be classified as ‘endangered’ under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

A newly released report commissioned by IFAW has illustrated the dire situation facing koala populations in Queensland, following a similar report showing 5,000 koalas in NSW could have perished during the recent bushfires. The ‘uplisting’ to endangered would apply across state boundaries.

NSW Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington, has called on the Berejiklian Government to throw its support behind the reclassification request and make a submission to the Commonwealth to that effect.

“Koala populations were already experiencing a perilous decline in NSW before the recent bushfires. Land clearing has exploded across NSW over the past few years, and over-development is pushing this iconic species to the brink,” Ms Washington said.

“Classifying koalas as endangered will accurately reflect the reality of their decline, and strengthen the measures and protections in place to finally turn the situation around.

“The International Fund for Animal Welfare has joined with WWF Australia, the Humane Society International and the NSW Environment Defenders Office to highlight the desperate situation facing koalas in NSW and across the country. They have been forced to lead this fight because our state and federal governments refuse to take the necessary action,” she said.

“In 2016, the Liberal-National Government in NSW removed the ability of local koala populations to be uplisted, even if they are edging towards extinction … but the issue hasn’t gone away. It’s gotten much worse.

“The only way we will save our local koalas is through honesty. Our koalas are endangered, and they need our help to survive. I’m hopeful the NSW Government will … throw its weight behind this nomination,” Ms Washington said.

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