New South Wales, Australia’s densely populated state, announced on Tuesday a ban on any deforestation in an 8,400 ha forest.
This decision was taken so that the forest can be transformed into a refuge for koalas where these marsupials can be protected from extinction.
The local government says the forest in question is already home to 106 koala colonies.
The koala-rich area will form an important part of a 315,000 ha Great Koala National Park that is envisioned. This massive national park will in effect “save koalas from extinction in the state”.
Brad Smith, acting chief executive of the nature conservation council, says the ban is a “historic step forward”, as the area is “the most important koala habitat in the world”.
“This decision also acknowledges the fact that deforestation has a devastating impact on koalas and biodiversity,” he says.
Dr. Stuart Blanch, spokesperson for the Australian World Wildlife Fund, said the number of koalas in New South Wales had shown “a dramatic decline” in the past few years. Between 2000 and 2020, the koala population declined by more than 50% due to deforestation, droughts and forest fires.
The local government’s decision “is a chance to reverse this tragedy,” says Blanch.
“If we are to save koalas from extinction at all in this century, we need large protected areas spanning millions of hectares.”
Environmentalists have already called for a halt to deforestation in the entire Great Koala National Park area.
The government said it would soon begin discussions with state-owned logging agency Forestry Corporation New South Wales to “determine timber supply options”.