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Read some truths and facts about koalas’ extinction: are they really near extinction?

We have known koalas as cute and adorable creatures, but little do we know that the species has been declared “vulnerable” by the Federal EPBC Act in New South Wales. When it says koalas are vulnerable, it means they are right above being endangered. 

In the Australian wildfire, around 300-1000 koalas were found dead in Northern New South Wales. The wildlife conservation professor at the Tasmania University, Chris Johnson says that they will not let koalas go extinct this fast. Indeed, the population of koalas are decreasing at a pace; there are no instances that will drastically wipe them out.

Why koalas suffered so much in the australian wildfire?

The only defence that koalas have up their sleeves is to climb high into the eucalyptus trees where they create their homes. Evidently, when it comes to fire, the odds of surviving are against these creatures. Additionally, eucalyptus is a fire-adaptive tree on the Earth. The intensity of the fire also played a significant role in making things even more complicated for koalas. That’s the reason why koalas were largely affected during the fire. 

So, how many koalas are left?

There’s no doubt in asserting that wildlife conservationists are taking every possible approach to saving the species. However, koalas are in danger in terms of their declining population. According to the estimates of 2018, there were 329,000 koalas in Australia. This data states a 24% decline in their popularity in the past three years. 

The widespread in the eastern regions of Australia and human-shy nature, make it quite difficult to estimate their population. It is found that some of the domestic population is on the verge of extinction, while others are doing fine. 

Food degradation, land development, increased CO2, diminished eucalyptus leaves quality, chlamydia, and dog attacks are some of the major threats for the koala population. 

According to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF), there are less than 100,000 koalas left, and the number is gradually decreasing. 

Image: Photographer David Yarrow
Did the fires decimate 80% of koala habitat?

After the devastating Australian wildfire many estimates were released regarding the death count of koalas in the region. One of the estimates stated that 80% of koala habitat were ruined in the fire. 

Technically thinking, koalas live in a large area that extends to the Eastern coast of Australia. Associate prof, school of biological sciences at Queensland University, Dianna Fisher says that koalas can live in more than 100 million hectares. Hence, it is not possible to make an estimation of such sort. Additionally, A postdoctoral fellow in landscape ecology at Tasmania University, Grant William son said that it doesn’t mean that the entire area affected by the fire will be destroyed and no longer appropriate for koalas habitation

Are koalas really extinct?

Instead of using the “extinct”, the right word would be “functionally extinct”. It is a state when a species does not have enough individuals to reproduce and sustain future generations. Dianna Fisher says that fire may have killed a large number of koalas, it is not enough to make them extinct. 

Koalas are stated to be functionally extinct, but Fisher denies the statement by saying that the species is threatened at some places but not in others. A third of the koalas’ population in Australia may have perished in the catastrophe. Populations in other regions like in the state of Victoria were not affected by fires. 

So, what’s the future of koalas?

It is true that everything is not appealing for koalas; things were threatening even before the fire. There are plenty of schemes and provisions for koalas’ protection, like killing koalas is illegal and a punishable offence. 

However, a concerning area in this matter is that only a little part of Australia’s koala habitat is under protected area. Government has to take a step forward and put environmental protection in the priority. 

According to AKF, no legislation is actively and effectively protecting koala habitats in Australia. It is not because there is no legislation active in the regions near koala habitat, but is because there is no political will that compels the legislation to take action.

In Australia, there are four major regions where the koalas live in the wild: New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, and Victoria. Each state possesses its independent legislation. AFK believes that the Federal Government is neglecting their responsibility towards koala habitat protection. 

When the regions come under the protection area, it will be much easier to keep a check on the population and preserve them for the long run. 

For years, AFK has been working on demanding a Koala Protection Act that will prioritize the need for protecting the vulnerable species.

As of now, koalas have not gone functionally extinct, but yet they are in a vulnerable state. However, with proper management, government help and a little concern towards the environment and wildlife can set things straight for these creatures.