Unthinkable impact of bushfires on koala populations
SOME koala populations may be listed as endangered after bushfires wiped out swathes of key habitats around the country.
Federal Environment Minister Susan Ley said experts managing threatened species listings would accelerate assessments of fire-ravaged koala populations that faced being wiped out.
It's estimated up to 30 per cent of some key koala habitats around the country were destroyed in the fires however it has been too early to assess the death and injury toll.
Ms Ley has asked the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to "bring forward" their assessments of koala populations after the "extraordinary hit" of the bushfires on populations along the east coast and South Australia's Kangaroo Island.
"Everything that can be done to rescue and recover koala habitat will be done, including some innovative approaches that look at whether you can actually put a koala in an area that it hasn't come from," she said.
An endangered listing would provide extra protections for koala habitats and create species recovery plans but there are concerns it could take years to change their status from vulnerable.
Australian Koala Foundation chairwoman Deborah Tabart said the battle to have koalas listed as vulnerable took 12 years despite the government being able to do it with the "stroke of a pen".
"They just want to exploit koalas for tourism and now that the whole world's watching they want to make them look like they care but they don't, they really don't," she said.
Threatened species commissioner Sally Box, who will lead an expert panel guiding the government's ecological response to the bushfires, said mapping the path of the fires would be a key task to understand which species were in the path of the flames.
"We know that koalas have really taken a hit, it will be some time before we know exactly what that means for their numbers but obviously koalas will be a big area of focus for us," she said.
Labor environment spokeswoman Terri Butler welcomed the government's "belated" $50 million funding package for ecological recovery announced yesterday but called for transparency about its roll out.