The NSW government is considering whether to list the koala as an endangered species in the state following the summer’s unprecedented bushfires.
Environment Minister Matt Kean on Friday said the state’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee was considering elevating the marsupial’s status from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’.
Mr Kean was asked during a parliamentary hearing whether the koala would be listed as endangered in 2020 as a result of the fires.
“My understanding is that the threatened species advisory panel is looking at exactly that … there have been a number of requests for it to do so,” Mr Kean told the budget estimates hearing.
“I’ll let the experts make those decisions, they’re best placed to do so and I’ll look forward to seeing what they come up with and respond accordingly.”
The koala is currently listed as vulnerable.
Work is being undertaken “to determine whether or not as a result of these bushfires the status of the koala should be lifted,” Mr Kean said.
It follows calls for koalas to be declared endangered after a report found it was likely 5000 died in NSW during the season’s devastating bushfires.
The report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and ecological consultant group Biolink looked at how the recent fires impacted the state’s already declining koala population.
Koalas were already under stress from land clearing, urban development and the drought with the state’s population declining between 30 and 67 per cent since 2001, the report found.
The data published on Wednesday found more than five million hectares had burnt and at least 5000 koalas died in the bushfires from October 2019 to January 10.
IFAW wildlife campaigner Josey Sharrad said this was a conservative estimate with further research to cover the impact of the bushfires to February 10.
Ms Sharrad also said the research does not include the number of koalas that will die because their habitats have been destroyed by fire.
IFAW is calling for an emergency listing as endangered to ensure the marsupial is protected as the population starts to recover.
IFAW has made a nomination to the threatened species scientific committee which will then make a determination on the listing.
The NSW environment department will review the report, a spokesman told AAP in a statement on Thursday.