Koalas are often listed as one of the most popular animals worldwide. Living only in Australia, most of us are not going to see them in their natural setting.
Increasingly it is looking like, no one will see them in their natural setting unless you are travelling to Australia soon.
A mix of droughts, heatwaves and bushfires have all contributed to deal this huge blow to this unique species.
There are now estimated to be just 58,000 wild koalas, down for 80,000 in 2018. Another problem occurs when developers clear land to build a property – which is continuing to occur in Koala habitat.
Earlier this year, Australia announced that it was considering listing the East coast koala as endangered. With a precipitous fall in population like this, it seems odd that there is any decision to be made – of course the Koala is endangered, and if the government is considering listing a particular subspecies as endangered it must be very bad.
Estimates as high as 1 billion are quoted for the number of animals killed in the fires.
Koalas as a species, are highly popular. Not found in many zoos a lot of people go to Australia to see them. Perhaps down to the character Binky bill, and the books written about him, koalas are one of the species that almost everyone knows about even though the majority of people haven’t seen them. In the UK only found and in Edinburgh Zoo and Longleat Safari Park, ( with both these arrivals relatively recent) zoo goers are not used to seeing koalas.
Wildlife species only found in Australia are threatened by several factors. The first is the fact that Australia is increasing the clearing their habitats- as in Africa, forest living species cannot survive in the wild when their habitat has been cleared, and unfortunately in Australia large parts of their land are being cleared. While on occasion that has been pledges to replant Forest elsewhere in Australia, generally the firm has either failed to live up to its promises or has not replaced it with like the like- often the new forests are fast growing species that do not support the wildlife of the forest they destroyed.
Australia is one of the countries that is being hit first by global warming with parts of the Continent becoming largely uninhabitable. The increase in temperature is also drying out the forest which is meaning that some of the forest not being cut down are dying anyway.
Over the last decade also Australia has had some politicians who have been prominent climate change deniers, and thus far they seem to be uninterested in doing the things that are required to protect their own way of life.
In this latest fire, hundreds of koalas have been burnt to death, unfortunately the area was actually a highly successful breeding ground and had very high densities (remember that koalas are herbivores and therefore can live at densities of hundreds per square mile).
However sensationalist claims that koalas functionally extinct after these fires is totally false. They are highly endangered with their habitats disappearing at an astounding rate, but be functionally extinct they need to be very few members of the Species left and we are not there yet (functional extinction essentially says without human intervention the species will disappear). There are arguments as to how many koalas are left, but it’s estimated that New South Wales has between 15,000 and 30,000 remaining.
Koala numbers declined by about 40% between 1990 and 2010, so the theory is without a change in the government’s attitude very soon the Koala will be totally extinct in the wild. Isolated cases of reforestation need to be increased and and Forest corridors between blocks would allow the population to rebound naturally (this adds resilience to farmland as well as the wild areas around).