Published in May 2019 / Updated in Aug 2021
Koalas population has declined so low across Australia such that the species are now ‘functionally extinct,’ animal activists believe.
The Australia Koala Foundation has announced that they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia,” meaning they’re unlikely to produce the next generation.
‘Functionally extinct’ describes an animal population that’s so low it has ceased affecting its environment, the animals have no breeding pairs, or only a few breeding individuals could succumb to genetic diseases.
It’s hard to ascertain the exact number of koalas remaining in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory.
But the species are vulnerable to threats, including diseases, climate change, and deforestation.
So, if the koalas’ population falls below the critical point, they’ll be unable to produce the next generation. That’ll lead to species extinction.
The foundation reported that since 2010, there’re no koalas left in 41 out of 128 Federal electorates that fall within the known koala habitats.
While the foundation admits that koala’s tendency to move around and alter their environment makes it hard to track them, researchers said the numbers are in steep decline.
Between 1890 and 1927, over 8 million koalas were shipped to London after being shot for fur.
Research from 2016 showed that about 330,000 animals were left in Australia, although their population could be as high as 600,000 or as low as 144,000.
The biggest threats of the species are heatwaves caused by extreme weather change and habitats loss.
The study has shown that thousands of koalas died last year due to dehydration caused by intense heatwave across the country.
Since May 2012, the species have been listed as vulnerable animals in most Australian regions, including Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, and New South Wales.
But the animals aren’t listed as vulnerable in South Australia and Victoria because the species population has already gone extinct.
The chairperson of the Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, has urged the Australian prime minister to take urgent measures to save the declining koala native species.
“I am calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act (KPA) which has been written and ready to go since 2016.”
“The plight of the Koala now falls on his shoulders.”
According to fossil records dating back 300 million years, koalas play a significant role in Australia’s ecosystem.
Koalas help maintain the environment as they keep forest trees healthy by eating the upper leaves. They also fertilize forest soil with their droppings.