Koalas now ‘functionally extinct’ in Australia, with only 80,000 left on the whole continent. Their numbers have dropped below critical levels.
The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has said that there are only 80,000 Koalas left on the whole continent. Once a population drops down below a certain point, it cannot produce another generation, making it ‘functionally extinct’. The AKF has produced these numbers after monitoring koala levels in 128 Australian electorates for nearly a decade. In that time, koalas have become extinct in 41 of those electorates.
AKF’s chairman Deborah Tabart said, “The AKF thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia. This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927.” She also said the population could be as low as 43,000. According to another organization, the International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species, koalas are a vulnerable species with around 100,000 to 500,000 mature individuals left in 2014.
Koala extinction is caused by the demand for their coats: 8 million koalas were killed between 1919 and 1924 for their coats, and today, human development, disease, domestic dogs and extreme weather all add to the threat faced by these animals. Their continued existence is vital because of the essential role they play in nature. They eat the eucalyptus tree, which is toxic to most other animals. break down its toxic components and deposit important nutrients to the forest floor.
In addition, koalas have become a symbol of Australian wildlife and culture. The San Diego Zoo said, “The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance. Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.” 80% of remaining koala habitats currently exist on privately owned land.
Although koalas are already protected under the law, the AKF is calling for a Koala Protection Act (KPA). The Act targets the National Recovery Plan the Australian government was meant to pass in 2012 but did not do so. Tabart said, “I know the Australian public are concerned for the safety of Koalas and are tired of seeing dead Koalas on our roads. It is time for the Government to respect the Koala and protect its habitat.” The framework for this act is based on the Bald Eagle Act in the USA which places environmental protection policies based around the Federal Endangered Species Act.
See some adorable koala pictures below:
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