As wildfires continue to rip across NSW Australia thanks to climate change; koalas, one of the countries national symbols are becoming more and more endangered. Australia’s environmental minister announced that up to 30% of koalas in New South Wales have been killed in the fires. 5 million hectares have burned nationally and taken nine people with it.
Sussan Ley the Federal Environment Minister said on Friday:
“up to 30% of their habitat has been destroyed. We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made,”
“I get mail from all around the world from people absolutely moved and amazed by, number one, our wildlife volunteer response, and also by the habits of these curious creatures,” Ley said.
“It doesn’t need to be fluffy and cute, it can be scaly and scratchy, and it’s just as important to me as environment minister but also to the Australian environment,” Ley said. “The western ground parrot has been affected by fires and the Kangaroo Island dunnart similarly.”
Habitat destruction and the effects of climate change have deeply harmed not only koalas but many other endangered species on the continent. Before the wildfires even began the koala population had already dropped by 42% from 1990-2010 as reported by the Federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
James Tremain, a spokesman for the NSW Nature Conservation Council, told Guardian Australia in November that koala decline has been happening “slowly and silently”.
“Koala numbers have plunged over the past 20 years,” he said. “We are directly destroying thousands of hectares of their forests through clearing for agriculture and logging for timber. But we are also shrinking available habitat indirectly as a result of climate change.”
On Friday, Ley said the government was doing enough on climate change.
“Climate change is a huge issue and we are playing our part,” she said. “We are meeting and beating our targets, it’s very important that we do that.
“My focus is on the things we can do on the ground, with practical action here in Australia that do make a difference.”