Koalas in Australia’s New South Wales could face extinction within decades thanks to mining, forestry and devastating bushfires.
The animals could be virtually extinct in the state by 2050 unless measures are taken to preserve them, a year-long inquiry found.
A prolonged, drought-fuelled bushfire season that ended early this year was also devastating for the animals, destroying about a quarter of their habitat across the state, and in some parts up to 81%.
The fires left 33 people dead, and burned more than 20% of Australia’s forests.
“The evidence could not be more stark,” said the inquiry’s 311-page final report, published on Tuesday.
“The only way our children’s grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee’s recommendations.”
Koalas are already listed as vulnerable in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland.
The bushfires – which lasted from September until torrential rains arrived in spring – killed 33 people and a billion native animals nationally and destroyed 2,500 homes and a wilderness area the size of South Korea.
The damage was most devastating in New South Wales.
The report, commissioned by a multi-party parliamentary committee, makes 42 recommendations, including an urgent census, prioritising the protection of the animal in the planning of urban development, and increasing conservation funding.
But the inquiry topped short of unanimously recommending a moratorium on logging in public native forests.
Stuart Blanch, manager of land clearing and restoration at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia, called on the government to heed the recommendations and strengthen protections for the animals’ habitat.
“WWF calls on the NSW Premier to rewrite weak land clearing laws to protect koala habitat, greatly increase funding for farmers who actively conserve trees where koalas live, and a transition out of logging koala forests and into plantations.” Blanch said in a statement.