Koalas threatened with extinction: Australia sounds the alarm!

Canberra – They have faithful dark eyes, a distinctive black nose, and fluffy gray fur—koalas. But if the marsupials are not better protected now, their species has little chance of survival. The reason: drought, bush fires and loss of habitat Down Under.

Now the Australian government is reacting! In the states of New South Wales and Queensland as well as in the Australian Capital Territory with the capital Canberra, the endangered status of koalas has been officially upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered”. Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced this on Friday.

In January 2020, wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk carries an injured koala out of a burning forestPhoto: David Mariuz/dpa

More than 60,000 of the funny animals, which feed exclusively on eucalyptus leaves, were estimated to have been killed, injured or traumatized in the terrible bush fires from August 2019 to March 2020 – or had to leave their habitat.

Images of animals with singed fur and burned paws went around the world. And apart from that, the population in many parts of the country has been steadily declining for more than 20 years.

The authorities want to invest 50 million Australian dollars (31 million euros) to save their national animal. “We are taking unprecedented action to protect the koala,” Ley said. “We work with scientists, medical researchers, veterinarians, communities, states, local governments and indigenous peoples.”

According to the animal welfare organization International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the reason for the upgrade of the protection status is the evaluation of two studies. These would have shown that the koala population in tropical Queensland has plummeted by at least 50 percent since 2001 and koalas in New South Wales are even threatened with extinction.

So it’s high time! “The decision to upgrade protection status was now urgent,” said Rebecca Keeble, IFAW Oceania Regional Director. In their opinion, measures should have been taken much earlier.

Keeble said the koala situation should be a wake-up call for Australia and encourage the government to speed up its efforts. “Critical habitats must be protected from development and deforestation, and the impacts of climate change must be vigorously addressed.”

The national favourite

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is a marsupial that sleeps most of the day in trees and feeds exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. These are actually poisonous. BUT: The digestive system of the animals is able to neutralize the toxic chemicals in the plants.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are at most 100,000 koalas left in the wild, “but probably no more than 43,000,” according to the foundation.


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