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A close up shot of a baby koala in a tree
Photograph: Nick Hewson

Koalas in the Sydney Basin are on the brink of extinction – but all hope is not lost

We can act now to change things around

Maya Skidmore
Written by
Maya Skidmore

It’s not the kind of news we like to hear, but it’s important that we know. According to a report just released by the Sydney Basin Koala Network and the Environment Defence Office, NSW’s koala population is "already all but extinct" in the Sydney Basin region and current legal protections are "woefully inadequate" to protect them. 

But, all hope is not lost. 

The 2023 report, commissioned by Sydney Koala Basin and executed by the koala mapping experts over at Biolink, has confirmed that koala numbers in the Sydney Basin (an area that stretches from Nowra to almost as far west as Mudgee) have declined by 22 per cent over the past 20 years, with current NSW legislation and policy failing to properly protect our nation’s cuddliest icon. 

The report also concluded that just 10 per cent of the Sydney Basin region has koalas, while also identifying the six areas in the Sydney Basin that are key to improving the fate of koalas: Campbelltown/Wollondilly, Liverpool, Sutherland, Wingecarribee (Southern Highlands), Hawkesbury, and Cessnock/Lake Macquarie.

Plus, according to WIRES, in 2022, exactly 617 calls were made in regards to koalas, with a hefty 337 of these calls coming in just from the Sydney Basin.

NSW’s koala population is under constant threat from increasing urban development, extreme weather events (such as bushfires and flooding) and vehicle strikes, with their habitat being constantly threatened and destroyed by hundreds of development approvals throughout the Sydney Basin region, with all our state government’s to date failing to properly protect koalas through planning and environment laws. 

This is sad news, but, as the report has just shown – we can actually halt the rapid koala decline, once and for all – but we need to act right now. 

The report says that if we make sure that we undertake consistent and comprehensive mapping across NSW's koala habitat AND reform state laws to provide protection and safeguard koalas in all environmental planning and land-clearing legislation, we have a real chance at turning things around and saving koalas from disappearing for good. 

The folks over at Sydney Basin Koala Network have created a five-point plan that they say voters should be aware of in the lead up to the state election, which includes: protecting existing habitat, maintaining and restoring existing corridors, removing loopholes in development laws, avoiding dog, car and fire threats, and (last, but not least) continuing scientific research that leads to real-life solutions.

With the NSW state election coming up in a month, this is an important thing for all of us to consider, with NSW Labor promising to create a brand new 30,000 hectare national park to protect koalas in NSW from rapidly facing extinction, while many other independent candidates are also getting on board to fight the fight to save koalas, once and for all. 

It might feel scary and hopeless right now, but the bottom line here is that it’s not too late. 

Koalas, we got you.

Want to do more? Here are 10 ways you can live an eco-friendly life in Sydney.

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