Are Australia’s Koala Bears in Danger of Extinction?

Are Australia’s Koala Bears in Danger of Extinction?

Recent bushfires have caused the koala population to come under threat.

Image credit: David Berkowitz Koala Bears Extinction

With bushfires on a rampage, Australia’s adorable national icon has been making the headlines as of late. Due to urbanisation and over-hunting, the koala population has been on a decline for many years, with the latest fires aggravating the situation.

Many reports by activist groups have emerged, claiming that the fires have destroyed over 80% of their habitats, leading them to be ‘functionally extinct’. It is estimated that 350 to 1,000 koalas have been killed in the recent fires. Koala Bears Extinction

‘Functionally extinct’ refers to a population of species that is so low in numbers that it is either unable to produce the next generation, or is no longer significant on the ecosystem function.

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) observed that out of the 128 territories that koalas used to inhabit, 41 are no longer in use. They have also estimated that only 80,000 koalas are still living compared to the 8 million koalas in 1927 — when hunting them became illegal.  

Image credit: The Sun (via YouTube)

However, scientists deny the claim that the koala population is ‘functionally extinct’.

Firstly, koalas live along the entire east coast. The fires have only affected New South Wales and Queensland, leaving nearly 100 hectares of forests (that are habitable for koalas), in the east, intact

Grant Williamson from University of Tasmania, has also pointed out that the damaged forests can recover and be suitable for future occupations. 

Next, the number of koalas surviving is hard to be determined. According to Adams-Hosking, University of Queensland, koalas tend to avoid humans by living high up in trees, making their numbers difficult to track. While the fires have gravely impacted the population living in those areas, only time will tell if the populations aren’t able to make a come-back.

Academic research has also put the numbers at 330,000, a substantially greater number than has been claimed by AKF. 

Hence, while the species is indeed under threat, they have yet to reach the point of no return, as mentioned by Chris Johnson from the University of Tasmania. Koala Bears Extinction

Care for the endangered koalas Koala Bears Extinction

Twenty-two koalas have been rescued from the fires and are currently treated at The Koala Hospital of Port Macquarie. 

Earlier this year in May, The Living Koala Genome Bank project was started to breed and manage chlamydia among the population. The species also faces many other threats such as land development, drought, dog attacks and food degradation.

Adam-Hosking suggests a declaration by the government to protect forested areas where the endangered species lives in. 

While the population’s future and survival are still uncertain, one thing is for sure: they aren’t extinct yet with the right care, they could continue to exist.  

Also read: The Cutest Animals in Western Australia Besides Koalas & Kangaroos!

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Alicia Chong
Alicia Chong

Besides dreaming of far-fetched locations, Alicia enjoys training herself and others on ice in figure skating.