Koalas are under threat of being wiped out in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, warn conservation group WWF Australia.
Koala numbers on the east coast:
- 53 per cent decline in Queensland population
- 26 per cent decline in New South Wales population
- 80 per cent decline in Southwest Queensland population
- 80 per cent decline in Koala Coast population
- Up to 250 hospitalised annually in Port Macquarie-Hastings
- 80 per cent decline in Pilliga Forests
The group are calling on state governments to do more to protect the Australian icon, claiming land clearing was rapidly destroying the mammals' bush habitats.
Dr Martin Taylor, protected areas and conservation science manager at WWF Australia, estimated that nearly 180 koalas died as a result of bushland bulldozing in south east Queensland alone between 2013 and 2015.
"This is really the tip of the iceberg," he said.
"Because we're looking at hundreds of koalas more that are actually admitted to wildlife hospitals," he said.
"There's the immediate effect of destruction of their habitat by bulldozers, but there's also the legacy of that."
Dr Taylor said once the habitat had been redeveloped, that then brought in new threats to the koala, such as more cars, more dogs, "more accidents waiting to happen for koalas."
Numbers are down 53 per cent on average in Queensland, 26 per cent in NSW and in a pocket known as the Koala Coast, numbers have declined by 80 per cent over the past two decades.
'Stronger protections needed for wildlife'
The koala is currently listed as vulnerable in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.
Dr Taylor's findings are part of two new reports by WWF Australia to mark Endangered Species Day.
The group has warned of "localised extinctions" if more was not done to stop development encroaching on koala habitats.
"Government has to bite the bullet and put in strong protections, not just for koalas but for all our wildlife," Dr Taylor said.
"The problem is there are so many get out of jail free cards for the all the industries that want to destroy habitats.
Conservation biologist Dr Christine Adams-Hosking also contributed to the WWF reports.
"Until the public wants change, I don't think anything's going to improve for the koala," she said.
Dr Adams-Hosking warned that even stable koala populations were at risk.
"Stable for how long I guess, that's always the question," she said.