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Koalas added to Australia's threatened species list


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (C) presents a toy koala to a child during a visit to a tsunami survivor's shelter in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on April 23, 2011.


Kazuhiro Nogi

Koalas have been added to Australia's list of threatened species in parts of the country, according to news reports. 

However, koala advocates are disappointed the listing excludes some states, according to the Fairfax Press.

Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke said today that koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory would be protected by the new listing, which would require land developers to account for the marsupial when making building applications.

"Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they hold a special place in the community," Burke said, The Australian newspaper reported.

"People have made it very clear to me that they want to make sure the koala is protected for future generations."

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee had gathered information from koala experts over the past three years, he said, and found that koala populations across the nation were declining.

Populations in some states faring worse than others, he said, which is why only koalas in some states — which were "very clearly in trouble" — were placed on the list.

Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters described the decision as "a big step forward," Fairfax reported.

However, she said, it would have made more sense to give the koala a national listing.

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The Wilderness Society said the listings were a "welcome first step" to greater protection of koalas, but it was also concerned about declining numbers in the south-eastern state of Victoria due to logging.

Australian Koala Foundation spokeswoman Deborah Tabart said, "It's a victory for Queensland and NSW and I am relieved," however she also expressed concern for populations in Victoria.

According to Australia's ABC News, Burke said a species was usually not considered endangered if it was bountiful in some locations.

"On a species as iconic as the koala, I really don't think I could have credibly said to the Australian people, 'oh don't worry, you might not have any more in Queensland the way things are going, but you can go to South Australia if you want to see one'," he said.

Queensland state leader Campbell Newman, meanwhile, said the listing would cost jobs in the state's construction industry.

"As soon as I heard about this, I immediately was very, very worried," he said.

"Not for developers, but I was worried for the carpenters and joiners, the sparkies [electricians], the plumbers, the concreters — the people who have been in the industry who have been doing it tough."

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