On Friday the 11th of February 2022, just five weeks after the Queensland government quietly released data revealing beef farming to be responsible for 93% of habitat destruction in the region from 2018 – 2019, koalas have finally been listed as endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) 1999, in QLD, NSW and ACT1. For many years, experts have been warning that koala populations are in decline, some even suggesting they are ‘functionally extinct’, meaning their populations are so low that they are unlikely to recover. Koalas are native Australian marsupials who live in open forest and woodland communities and are usually found in higher densities of forest where food trees grow and along watercourses2. These furry and iconic creatures are continuously seen as the face of Australia’s unique array of wildlife, yet the animal agriculture industry is once again taking precedence over the lives of the innocent.

The biggest danger facing native Australian animals today is habitat destruction, which is mainly caused by land clearing for the animal agriculture industry. Many Australians will agree that they want to protect koalas from extinction yet are unaware of how their eating habits directly link to their demise. The Queensland government’s report shows that a massive 680,688 hectares of woody vegetation, an essential habitat for koalas, was cleared in 2018-2019, with an overwhelming 93% of the land being replaced by beef and cattle farming3. Habitat destruction is the leading cause of species extinction in Australia and represents the primary threat to over 80% of all threatened species in the Oceanic region4. Our aggressive and relentless clearing of the land has earnt us the title of the worst deforesting country in the ‘developed’ world, and livestock production (both grazing and feeding) is the single biggest driver of land-use change, which in itself is the biggest contributor to biodiversity loss5.

Millions of native Australian animals, including koalas, are killed or left homeless throughout the land clearing process. Precious wildlife species are being crushed by trees or heavy machinery, or left without adequate shelter from predators, and risk starvation due to the loss of reliable food sources. Those who survive are much more susceptible to disease or vehicle strikes when attempting to find a suitable new habitat. Although habitat protection is widely accepted as vital in preventing further extinctions, the Australian government has only ever identified, listed and supported five critical habitats, and no new habitats in over fifteen years. During this time at least thirteen more native species have become extinct, including the first reptile since colonisation6.

We have a duty to protect, conserve and respect the land we live on, and this includes saving the animals who rely on this habitat to survive. Land clearing for animal agriculture is killing and forcing native animals out of their homes, places they rightly deserve to remain free from human intervention and destruction. If native koalas have a chance to recover, we must move away from beef farming and coexist with our ecosystem rather than actively destroying it. Indigenous communities have long held a common respect to the land and maintained biodiversity and balance in nature. We must look towards these communities in leading the way in land preservation, against modern mass farming practices that have a blatant disregard for what is essential for animals and the environment to thrive.

Your actions as an individual make an impact on this world, and reducing your meat intake is a great place to start.


References:

  1. Ferri, Lauren ‘Koalas officially listed as ‘endangered’ species in NSW, Queensland and ACT’, news.com.au, 2022, https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/koalas-officially-listed-as-endangered-species-in-nsw-queensland-and-act/news-story/6f37b13670b3a214ddb53b196863f1b3
  2. Whigham, Nick, ‘Koala populations in Queensland ‘functionally extinct’ experts warn’, news.com.au, 2016, https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/koala-populations-in-queensland-functionally-extinct-warns-experts/news-story/d67a88aa3d56ed6c5b34f02adeb293ec
  3. Queensland Government, ‘Land cover change in Queensland’, qld.gov.au, 2018, https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/91876/landcover-change-in-queensland-2016-17-and-2017-18.pdf
  4. R T Kingsford et al., ‘Major conservation policy issues for biodiversity in Oceania’, 2009, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19627315/
  5. Taylor, Martin et al., ‘Tree clearing: the hidden crisis of animal welfare in Queensland’, World Wide Fund for Nature, 2017, https://www.wwf.org.au/ArticleDocuments/353/pub-tree-clearing-hidden-crisis-of-animal-welfare-queensland-7sep17.pdf.aspx?Embed=Y
  6. Morton, Adam, ‘Australia confirms extinction of 13 more species, including first reptile since colonisation’, The Guardian, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/mar/03/australia-confirms-extinction-of-13-more-species-including-first-reptile-since-colonisation#:~:text=Australia%20confirms%20extinction%20of%2013%20more%20species%2C%20including%20first%20reptile%20since%20colonisation,-This%20article%20is&text=The%20Australian%20government%20has%20officially,been%20lost%20since%20European%20colonisation.

Author:
Caitie Wilson

Caitie Wilson (she/her) is the Communications Officer at Kindness Project. She became vegan after her philosophy studies at university with lecturer Peter Singer, and writes about animal welfare with the intention of creating kindness towards each other, towards animals and to our planet. Caitie is passionate about zero waste practices, and likes to experiment with vegan cooking in her spare time. She is currently making efforts towards living in an off-grid tiny home with her partner and rescue pup to direct her interest of sustainable living into her personal life.

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