A koala named Pete from Pappinbarra at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29. Picture: Nathan Edwards/Getty Images
A koala named Pete from Pappinbarra at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29. Picture: Nathan Edwards/Getty Images

Devastating number of koalas dead in fires

An inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW is expected to hear evidence that more than 2000 of the native Australian marsupials may have died on the state's north coast in recent bushfires.

The state parliament's upper house inquiry will hold an urgent hearing on Monday to discuss the extent of damage to the koala population from bushfires.

Thousands of hectares of koala habitat across northern NSW and southeast Queensland have been destroyed in the recent bushfires.

Koalas are listed as vulnerable in Queensland, NSW and the ACT, largely as a result of habitat clearing.

On Sunday evening, the Rural Fire Service said there were 91 bush and grass fires in NSW, 48 of which were not contained.

North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh is expected to give evidence on Monday that more than 2000 koalas may have died and up to one third of koala habitat on the state's north coast may have been lost in the fires.

 

A koala named Sharni from Crowdy Bay National Park is treated for burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29. Picture: Nathan Edwards/Getty Images
A koala named Sharni from Crowdy Bay National Park is treated for burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29. Picture: Nathan Edwards/Getty Images

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital president Sue Ashton in October estimated at least 350 koalas would have died in a bushfire in Crestwood, on the state's mid-north coast, based on a predicted 60 per cent mortality rate.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, chair of the inquiry, said the loss of koalas should be a wake-up call.

"Today's hearing is timely and necessary. We will be hearing from some of Australia's leading experts on koalas, bushfire and climate change," Ms Faehrmann said in a statement on Sunday.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan and indigenous fire practitioners are also due to give evidence as well as representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

"We will also hear recommendations that must be urgently taken to ensure these fires don't lead to the irreversible decline of koalas in NSW," Ms Faehrmann said.

"Hearing that we have lost up to a third of koala habitat and more than 2000 koalas on the north coast is utterly devastating and should be a wake-up call for this government that they must take action to protect koala habitat."


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