SYDNEY, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The state of New South Wales announced plans on Monday to boost spending on conservation programs, but a leading koala activist has lashed out at the government for not doing enough to save the cuddly critters from the looming threat of extinction.
Conservation projects in New South Wales will receive an additional 800,000 Australian dollars (609,000 U.S. dollars) to be put towards koala research, in addition to the 10 million Australian dollars allocated to acquiring key koala habitats throughout Sydney.
The funding was announced in the lead up to the state announcing its next budget, and in a statement State Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said conservation is an important priority for his government.
"Any threatened Australian species is a serious issue, and we want to invest in the important conservation work to help stabilise and eventually increase koala numbers across the state."
The boost in funding is a sign of the government's commitment to prioritising conservation projects, according to a government release; however, the announcement has been quick to court criticism, and activists have blasted the government for not doing enough.
Deborah Tabart has led the Australian Koala Foundation since 1988, and argued that unless Australia takes serious action to save the koala, "we might as well say goodbye to them."
Tabart told Xinhua on Monday the priority should be to map and document all the habitats of koalas throughout Australia, and it is "just staggering" that no one is taking conservation seriously.
"If we don't have a map that tells us exactly where the koala habitats are, there is no way we can save them."
"People need start to understand that the koalas really are in dire straits and the government needs to know that this is a very complex issue."
Tabart was adamant that the clearing of their habitats has led to the dwindling numbers of koalas in the wild, and stressed that the iconic, furry animals were subsequently exposed to further dangers - such as dog attacks, and collisions with cars - as a result of the destruction of the native wildlife areas.
The damage that has been done to koala habitats is so severe, according to the Australian Koala Foundation, that there are possibly as few as 43,000 koalas left in the wild.
although Australia has more unique species than any other developed country, conservationists have stressed that Australia has one of the worst track records when it comes to protecting its native flora and fauna, with the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world and 1,700 plants and animals listed by the government as being at risk of a mass wipeout.