Senate publishes report

The Australian senate has issued its report on the status, health, and sustainability of the koala.

The head of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, praised those who wrote the document, but said it was a great disappointment that the koala will not be listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“That said, I have to congratulate those who wrote this document. It seems to me that this is the first time such a wide variety of individuals, community, industry, researchers, and government representatives have had equal standing and recognition at this level.”

Tabart said the Victoria government’s claim that they had too many koalas should not cloud the conservation debate and stop a national listing.

“AKF fears this and will not see a piecemeal approach to listing. There is some discussion in the report that they could list ‘koalas in peril’. This has not worked in the past and will not work now. Our vigilance for a national listing is paramount. Koalas on mainland Victoria are suffering the same declines as elsewhere in Australia.”

The senators stated in the report that it was not qualified to determine whether or not the koala should be listed as threatened, but the committee was deeply concerned about the sustainability of Australia’s koala population.

The committee made 19 specific recommendations including the recommendation that the Australian government fund a properly designed, funded, and implemented national koala monitoring and evaluation programme.

The leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, said: “I referred the problems facing koalas to a Senate inquiry because experts told me we were fast approaching a crisis point. The inquiry heard from carers, scientists and advocates across the country and their message was consistent and urgent: koala numbers everywhere, except the introduced populations in Victoria and South Australia, are in freefall.

“The Senate report recognises that we have to act now before this iconic species is added to the endangered list. As it is, there is a strong case for the Minister to list the koala as vulnerable to extinction.

“The committee has recognised that habitat loss continues to be the biggest threat to koala populations and has recommended changes to halt this loss, as well as improvements to funding and operation of habitat mapping and population monitoring.”

(Details of the other recommendations, and other reactions to the report will follow in a subsequent post.)

Deborah Tabart’s diary