After a severe decrease in population, Australia has designated the koala as an endangered species across most of its east coast.
The listing was for Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), according to the federal government.
It has been advised that more be done to safeguard koalas from habitat loss and climate change.
Only in 2012 was the species designated as “threatened” in those states and territories. Governments have been accused of dithering despite the increasing deterioration.
On Friday, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said, “This listing adds priority when it comes to the conservation of the koala.”
Officials are working on a recovery strategy, she added, and land development applications will now be evaluated for their impact on the species.
Last year, a New South Wales inquiry warned that unless urgent action is taken, koalas will become extinct in the state by 2050.
It was estimated that the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires killed 5,000 koalas and destroyed 24% of habitats in New South Wales alone.
According to Australia’s largest Koala conservation group, there may only be 50,000 of the animals left in the wild.
“Within a decade, koalas went from no listing to vulnerable to endangered. That’s a startlingly rapid drop “WWF-Australia conservation scientist Stuart Blanch remarked.
“Today’s decision is encouraging, but it will not prevent koalas from becoming extinct unless it is supported by stronger legislation and landowner incentives to maintain their forest habitats.”
Koalas can also be found in South Australia and Victoria, although conservation groups claim that their numbers are declining across the country.