Black Summer bushfires could return koalas to endangered status

Koalas could be reclassified as endangered. Picture: Simone De Peak
Koalas could be reclassified as endangered. Picture: Simone De Peak

Koalas could be reclassified as endangered, following the Black Summer bushfires.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced on Friday - which was also Save The Koala Day - the status of 28 species would be formally assessed to determine whether they needed to be listed as threatened, or uplisted.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee will determine whether species like the koala - which is classified as vulnerable in Queensland, NSW and the ACT - should have its status upgraded to endangered.

More than 10 per cent of the known koala population was impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.

There are also concerns about the species ongoing viability, off the back of drought and habitat loss.

The committee will also consider whether the greater glider should be upgraded to endangered. The species, which is founded in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and the ACT, lost 30 per cent of its grange in the fires. The bushfire expert panel has called for urgent action to save the species from extinction.

Other species to be assessed included the long-nosed bandicoot, mountain skink, yellow-bellied glider, parma wallaby and the long-nosed potoroo.

Ms Ley said the process would ensure key species were given "strategic protection, are eligible for targeted funding and that awareness is raised about the issues impacting them".

"As part of the ongoing cycle of nomination processes over the next two years, we anticipate that high profile species, as well as lesser known plants and animal species that are also vital to healthy ecosystems, will be assessed to understand the urgency of threats to each species," Ms Ley said.

"After formally prioritising a species for assessment, the committee will gather and review all information about the species, consult with expert scientists, indigenous communities, land managers and the public to inform their recommendations to me about potential listing."

The announcement came after a NSW parliamentary inquiry found in June the koala would be driven to extinction by 2050 without urgent intervention.

The species has also been at the centre of a political stoush between the NSW Liberals and Nationals, after Deputy Premier John Barilaro threatened to implode the Coalition government over a koala protection policy.

An estimated three billion animals were killed or displaced during the bushfires last season.

This story Koalas could be upgraded to endangered status first appeared on The Canberra Times.