The fight is on to save Australia’s cutest icons.

Koalas are now officially an “endangered” species in NSW, Queensland and ACT after the federal government upgraded their status from “vulnerable.

The much-loved marsupials’ population has plummeted in those states over recent years and they are now at serious risk of being wiped out.

“Today I am increasing the protection for koalas in NSW, the ACT and Queensland listing them as endangered rather than their previous designation of vulnerable,” federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said on Friday.

An endangered listing recognises that a species is at high risk of extinction.

“The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the advice,” Ms Ley added.

The environment minister wants Queensland, NSW and Victoria to sign up to a national recovery plan worth $50 million over four years.

“We are taking unprecedented action to protect the koala, working with scientists, medical researchers, veterinarians, communities, states, local governments and traditional owners,” Ms Ley said.

The Australian Koala Foundation has estimated there are fewer than 100,000 koalas remaining in the wild, with feral predators and land clearing for development to blame.

The 2019-20 bushfire crisis and the drought that followed has also contributed to a rapid decline in population. In 2020, a NSW parliamentary inquiry warned the marsupial would likely become extinct before the middle of the century without urgent intervention.

Image: Getty

This article first appeared on OverSixty.