Did you know that koalas have one of the highest extinction rates in the world?

Now, it seems politicians in Australia are finally paying a little more attention to these fuzzy marsupials. Environmental Minister Tony Burke has listened to advice from Care2 members and the national Threatened Species Scientific Committee, and next week he is expected to grant koalas extra federal government protection in certain regions of Australia.

Koalas will now be listed as “vulnerable” in Queensland, and as “endangered” in east New South Wales. Any new development project will be subject to conditions to protect koalas and their habitat.

However, the battle is not over yet. Australian Greens and environmental advocates claim that this legislation has not gone nearly far enough in helping save these charming creatures. It is estimated that there are only between 80,000 and 100,000 koalas left in the wild.

“Minister Burke has already foreshadowed that he is not going to protect koalas across the whole landscape,” asserts Deborah Tabart, the chief executive of the Australian Koala Foundation. “Because I have been in my job for so long and I sat through the senate inquiries last year, I know industry is afraid of a listing and I know they have lobbied very hard. The logging industry, the development industry and forestry all pleaded with the senators last year, please do not list.”

Environmentalists are especially concerned about koalas in Gunnedah, the “koala capital of the world.” Research has shown a 75% drop in koala numbers since 1993. However, this is not an area where koalas will be specially protected.

Minister Burke defended himself by saying, “We know that koalas are under pressure in some parts of Australia while they are abundant in others. But I can’t provide a blanket threatened species listing across Australia when there are many places where koala numbers remain high.”

This is a critical moment; we must keep pushing to help save this unique species and bring koalas back from the brink of distinction.

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