Respected biologist and author Dr Stephen Jackson says Australia's much-loved koala is in jeopardy.
Dr Jackson, author of The Koala: Origin of an Icon, will tell a public forum at the University of Newcastle's Conservatorium this week about the extinction threat posed to the Australian icon.
"Previously hunted to near extinction in the 1920s, the species continues to face ongoing threats to its survival today," Dr Jackson said. "The loss of habitat and urban development, the increase of disease, the potential harm of climate change, and attacks from other animals all impact of the survival of the koala.
"Debate is raging about how best to manage the remaining populations of koalas. There is differing opinion on the actual population numbers and whether the species should be considered vulnerable to extinction at the national level.
"The koala is a universally recognised icon of Australia, which means issues of sterilisation, relocation, and culling will always be controversial."
Dr Jackson, who has spent the past two decades working in the wildlife industry, will also use the forum to provide insight into the ecology, behaviour and history of the extraordinary animal.
"Evolving from the giant koalas which lived 20 million years ago, today's koalas are fascinating creatures that play an important role generating tourism dollars," he said.
The forum is being hosted by the University's Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment. Director, Professor John Rodger, said the forum was the latest in a series designed to raise awareness of conservation issues and would be of particular interest to the local community.
"Port Stephens is home to one of the State's most important koala populations. Learning more about the history and current status of this animal is paramount to ensuring its protection.'
The Koala: Future of an Icon will be held at 5.30pm on Tuesday 23 September 2008 at the University of Newcastle's Conservatorium. Cost is $10 per person.
Register by contacting Belinda Marks.
Professor John Rodger, Director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment is available for interviews. Dr Stephen Jackson is available for interviews via Kate Reid in Media and Public Relations.