25 Nov 2021


If we don’t act now, koalas on the east coast of Australia could be extinct by 2050.

We’ve already lost more than half our east coast koalas over the last 20 years, with the population projected to shrink a further 28% by 2032, and, if urgent action isn’t taken, in another 18 years (in 2050), our trees may be empty.

Extinction is not an option. Help us save koalas and protect their habitat before it’s too late.

When a koala loses its home, it has nowhere to go.

The biggest threat to koalas is the destruction of their habitat. According to WWF-Australia’s Dr Stuart Blanch, “An enormous amount of koala habitat is cleared in New South Wales and Queensland every year with koalas either killed or displaced as a result.”

But it’s not just deforestation.

“Climate change is killing koalas and the trees they live in. Worsening droughts, heatwaves and extreme bushfires are escalating the rate of koala decline on the east coast, so even when their habitats aren’t cut down, there may be no koalas living there.”

Koala release in Emmaville NSW
Koala release in Emmaville NSW (1000px) © WWF-Aus / Adam Krowitz

We need to change the koala’s classification from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ under Australia’s environment law.

By changing the status of our koalas from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’ under Australia’s national environmental law, we can give more protection to this iconic Australian animal and their forest homes.

This is a critical step in slowing and reversing the slide of koalas towards extinction across Queensland and New South Wales. We know that where koala homes are protected, they find safe refuges and grow their families.

WWF’s goal is to double koala numbers on the east coast by 2050, as part of our Koalas Forever program to Regenerate Australia after the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires.

Jennifer Ford with Annie the koala after her bandages are changed
Jennifer Ford with Annie the koala after her bandages are changed © WWF-Australia/Veronica Joseph

Estimates of the decline in the east coast koala population provided by koala experts to the Australian Government project a 74% drop from 1992 to 2032. That trend is alarming.

Dr Blanch says, “Changing the koalas status to Endangered triggers stronger environmental assessment processes for forests where koalas live, making it harder to bulldoze or chop down koala homes. In terms of climate change, it raises awareness globally that Australia’s iconic marsupial is at great risk from deforestation and global heating. Loss of species like koalas because of climate change is a really significant issue."

But that’s not all.

“For other threats, like being attacked by dogs, being hit by cars and trucks, and the disease Chlamydia, uplisting koalas to Endangered could raise more money to support koala conservation activities being undertaken by community groups, wildlife carers, farmers, Indigenous communities and governments. It also raises awareness among landholders, developers and regulators that they should not kill koalas and destroy their homes and neighbourhoods.”

But is there hope for the koala?

Yes! As we continue to see a decline in koalas, an animal so linked with the Australian identity, it sometimes feels like despair is the only option, but it’s not. Changing a species classification - and the public’s perception - has worked before and can help save koalas.

“Australia stopped whaling in 1978. Whale numbers have since boomed. When I was growing up on the east coast in the 1970s and 80s, I rarely saw whales. Now you can see whales during their annual migration, and it is so amazing to see them breaching close to the shore and caring for their calves,” he says.

“When eastern-barred bandicoots on the mainland were listed under federal environmental law in 1992 it provided stronger legal protection for its habitat and coordination of conservation efforts. It provided greater attention to people and organisations trying to save them. The eastern-barred bandicoots became extinct in the wild on the east coast two decades ago. But after intentional breeding programs, the creation of feral predator exclusion fences and rewilding to islands, they are no longer extinct in the wild in Victoria and their numbers are increasing.”

Eli the koala joey in care at Ipswich Koala Protection Society
Eli the koala joey in care at Ipswich Koala Protection Society © WWF-Australia

Saving the koala isn’t just about koalas.

While koalas might be at the front and centre of this issue, the positive implications of such a change are far-reaching. According to Dr Blanch,

“There are hundreds of other species of plants and animals that live in a single hectare of forest where a koala lives; lizards, insects, spiders, frogs, birds and mammals. Our goal is to phase out large-scale deforestation and for Australia to become a world leader in reforestation. What’s good for koalas is generally good for a lot of other species.”

We need to protect their habitats and all the animals that live in them, giving greater support for organisations like WWF who want to make sure that we - and our grandchildren - can live in a world where we coexist with the other animals who call Australia home.

So, what can you do?

It’s not just in the hands of policymakers, we can all make a difference.

People have power when we speak up and take action. You can sign the petition to let the Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment know that you want them to list east coast koalas as Endangered to help save them from extinction.

Together, we can ensure actions are taken to save their habitats so that koalas not only survive but thrive in the wild.

If you want to help save koalas from extinction, sign the petition to change the status of the east coast koala from Vulnerable to Endangered. We need koalas, and right now, koalas need you.