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Environmentalists Allege Mass Illegal Land Clearing in Australia

FILE - A young koala looks through eucalyptus leaves in a zoo in Duisburg, Germany, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018.
FILE - A young koala looks through eucalyptus leaves in a zoo in Duisburg, Germany, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018.

A joint investigation by three environmental groups has documented six potentially illegal large-scale deforestation cases in Australia.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the Queensland Conservation Council and the Wilderness Society published their findings Monday.

The groups have provided their allegations of unauthorized land clearing to the federal government in Canberra for assessment.

The alliance has said that in each case, habitat for threatened and endangered species, including the koala, were bulldozed without official permission.

The report says Australia's national environment law is ineffective and the Canberra government is neglecting the problem.

Campaigners have argued that Australia ranks second in the world for biodiversity loss, leads the world in mammal extinctions and has been named as the only developed nation on a global deforestation hotspot list.

Glenn Walker, who heads the nature program at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday that deforestation in Australia has reached crisis levels.

“The figures are really alarming. There’s a lot of wildlife being killed — one native animal every single second because of this destruction happening right across Australia, and it is the responsibility of the federal government to step in," he said. "This should be an issue of national environmental leadership, particularly as the government is reforming our national environment law, and we can fix this problem.”

Australia's national environment law, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, is currently being reviewed by the Labor government.

A spokesperson for Tanya Plibersek, the federal minister for the Environment and Water, has said the Canberra government was undertaking broad consultation on what would be “strong new environment laws.”

Draft sections of the new conservation laws, which are scheduled to be introduced to Parliament this year, have been shared with conservation, business and other organizations.

The minister has, so far, not responded to allegations of widespread illegal land clearing.

The Canberra government previously declared that Australia supports up to 700,000 native species. A very high proportion of these are found nowhere else in the world. For example, about 85% of Australia’s plant species are endemic to the continent, and Australia is home to half of the planet’s marsupial species.

Officials also have estimated that Australia’s biodiversity is far greater than is currently categorized.

They say about 70 percent — or 400,000 — of the continent’s species of animals, plants, fungi and other organisms have not yet been discovered, documented, named and officially classified.