Australia's koala population faces extinction across large parts of New South Wales and Queensland as urbanisation, land clearing and climate change threaten the vulnerable species' habitats. Experts are warning of an "unfolding tragedy" which could see koalas wiped out of regions including the Koala Coast south-east of Brisbane, and the Pilliga Forests area in northern NSW.
Populations close to Byron Bay, Ballina, Port Macquarie and Gunnedah in NSW are also under threat, while koala numbers in regions near Mackay and Toowoomba in Queensland have suffered declines of up to 80 per cent.
Koala numbers have diminished in Queensland by a total of 53 per cent, according to analysis of the past 20 years and projections of the next two decades.
In NSW the koala population fell by a total of 26 per cent over the same period. A report released by WWF-Australia to coincide with Endangered Species Dayfound "habitat loss continues to be the key threatening process to the long-term survival of the koala and is being compounded by numerous other threats."
Koalas have inhabited broad regions of Australia for the past 25 million years. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species in NSW, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
Hundreds of thousands of koalas were culled for the fur trade after European settlement, a practice which did not cease until the 1930s, while another early threat to the population came from land clearing for agriculture.