Koala survey positive

HOPES for the future of Australia's Koala population have been buoyed by a new population survey.

The survey was conducted at the Redlands' Koala Coast and showed no significant change in koala numbers since 2008.

Environment Minister Vicky Darling today released the final report with population data indicating strong declines seen in previous surveys may have been halted.

"I am confident that measures we put in place in 2006 - and have since strengthened - are contributing to this positive result," Ms Darling said. 

More work needed to be done to confirm population trends she said until the results of the survey were certain. 

"In 2006, we took landmark moves to link animal conservation with development planning and approvals - we put a stop to koala tree clearing in critical habitat areas and stopped developments that would increase traffic through critical habitat. 

"We knew that unless we took ambitious steps South East Queensland's koala population could become extinct - we took action to ensure that our vulnerable koalas not only survive but start to rebuild."

Although she said it was still too early to declare the population safe she was encouraged that the population decline appears to have steadied.

"We expect further improvement as our $60 million koala response strategy reaches its milestones - including habitat protection, new property acquisition and strict planning controls.

"Compared to reports in 2008 of a dramatically declining koala population by 50 percent, the latest survey shows the decline is estimated to be about 13 percent - yet error margins mean that we can't say for certain that there was a decline at all.

"Additional long-term protection measures the Bligh Government has put in place since 2008 will start to take effect in the next few years, and we will hopefully see an increasing population trend emerge. 

"We know more work needs to be done - but encouragingly these results show we have more time for them to start to take effect. 

Ms Darling said the Bligh Government had taken strong steps to safeguard this important koala population for future generations including:

  • New property purchases
  • Land rehabilitation by planting more than 30,000 koala habitat trees in strategic locations
  • Funding for private landholders to create koala nature refuges
  • Planning controls protecting around 50,000ha of bushland koala habitat from new development
  • Road retrofits to improve safety for koalas crossing roads
  • Protecting 20 million hectares by 2020 across Queensland 
  • Ongoing population surveys
  • Disease research 

"We are committed to keep surveying this population over the coming years to get a clearer picture as to whether or not the trend is turning around," Ms Darling said.

"We always anticipated there would be a further decline before the population stabilised permanently - it takes time for new trees to grow - but this result is better than we expected.

"In the meantime we are not sitting on our hands - we are pushing ahead with measures aimed at turning around the long-term trend."

Further information on the latest survey results can be found at www.derm.qld.gov.au

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