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  This morning Environment Minister Tony Burke announced his decision to list koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as vulnerable on the national list of threatened species.

  Below are comments from Australian experts provided by the Australian Science Media Centre. The collaboration between the Australian Science Media and the Science Media Centre of Japan is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Professor Chris Johnson

Professor of Wildlife Conservation and an ARC Australian Professorial Fellow in the School of Zoology at the University of Tasmania
  The decision to create a split listing for the koala is unusual but sensible. The problems facing koalas are very different across its geographic range. In the south, some populations are over-abundant and are damaging their habitat. In the north, koala populations are in decline for a multitude of reasons. Some of these reasons are quite well understood. For example, we know very well that koalas are threatened by cars and dogs in southeast Qld. Others are poorly understood: there is a strong possibility that rising atmospheric CO2 could be harming koalas by affecting the nutritional quality of gum leaves, but we don't know how much this is contributing to declines.
  The northern and southern populations are now basically separate. There is little or no gene flow between them because koalas are so rare across southern New South Wales. We will need to think about the differing needs of northern and southern koalas almost as if they are two different species. Therefore it makes sense that they be given separate listings, and it is a reasonable assessment of the evidence to class the northern population as 'vulnerable'.

Dr Greg Baxter

Senior Lecturer in Wildlife Management in the School of Geography Planning & Environmental Management at The University of Queensland
  I welcome the Minister’s announcement. There is good evidence that koala populations in Queensland and NSW have suffered rapid and significant reductions since the early 1990s, while some populations in Victoria and South Australia are overabundant. Hence splitting the national population into management units that reflect these differences is a very sensible and worthwhile outcome. Recognition that the Queensland and NSW populations are vulnerable is a major step towards securing their future.


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