Why Was the Koala Recently Declared Endangered?
The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is undoubtedly one of Australia's most iconic endemic species. Koalas are good-natured and cute-looking animals whose faces are seen on so many tourism brochures, websites and commercials. It is a strange animal because it can eat plants that are poisonous to other animals, such as eucalyptus, and as a marsupial, it has curved fingers and unique fingerprints. However, koalas are in a delicate situation as far as their conservation status is concerned, and urgent measures have been taken to protect them.
In this AnimalWised article, we explain why the koala is threatened with extinction and what measures are being taken to ensure its protection.
Is the koala in danger of extinction?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization composed of organizations and experts involved in the study and conservation of nature, lists the koala as endangered.
Recent events in Australia have exacerbated the impact and risk to this species. As a result, the Australian Department of the Environment recently announced a strengthening of koala conservation based on the National Environment Act, which includes a collaborative effort with scientists, veterinarians, communities and local governments. In addition, the Scientific Committee on Endangered Species has been tasked with assessing the koala's situation.
In February 2022, the Australian Minister for the Environment announced that the koala's conservation status had been changed from vulnerable to endangered in some regions such as New South Wales, Canberra, and Queensland.
If you are curious in learning more about this amazing animal, then keep reading this article on fun and interesting facts about koalas.
How many koalas are there in the world?
At its last update in 2016, the IUCN estimated that between 100,000 and 500,000 koalas exist in the wild. However, in this year 2022, the Australia Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates that the real number is much lower since about 4,000 are killed each year from traffic accidents and dog attacks alone. The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates there are currently less than 40,000 left in the wild.
Koalas were once a thriving species, but a horrific massacre took place in the 1920s. Millions of animals were killed to gain their pelts, causing the current crisis.
If you are interested in learning more about the habitat of koalas, then keep reading this article on where do koalas live?
Reasons why the koala is in danger of extinction
Koalas are threatened by habitat change, as noted by the IUCN several years ago. Habitat destruction, fragmentation, and alteration, as well as vegetation fires and disease, have exposed them to other risks, such as predatory behavior by dogs and being run over by cars. Droughts in certain areas are also responsible for the death of these animals.
According to the Australian Department of the Environment, there are a number of current threats to the koala that coincide with the targets established by the IUCN. These are:
- Prolonged drought
- Forest fires
- Accumulation of disease
- Loss of habitat over 20 years
Therefore, when these causes were identified in advance and are still continuing or, on the contrary, worsening, it was imperative to do what was necessary to draw attention to the plight of koalas.
However, the Australian Conservation Foundation reports that the federal government has approved the logging of 25,000 hectares of koala habitat in recent years. Under federal law, 61% of the cleared land is used for mining, 12% for transportation, and 11% for housing. This data does not include land cleared for agricultural development.
Despite these facts, the government has approved millions of dollars for koala conservation. This includes habitat restoration, concern for the health of the animals, and research to benefit them. It is clear that there is some inconsistency in the above actions.
How to protect the koala from extinction: conservation plans
In the last decade, various measures have been taken to protect the koala, which was not considered endangered at the time. This suggests that the work done is not really effective, as its protection status has only gotten worse. At AnimalWised, we believe that these strategies are necessary to protect the koala in light of proposed national conservation and management strategies:
- The koala's habitat should be protected, as the Australian Conservation Foundation has pointed out, because with the drastic transformation of the areas where it lives, the species will not be able to recover. Conservation plans will have no effect if koala habitat is destroyed.
- Create a reliable estimate of koala populations.
- Involve government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and indigenous groups in projects to conserve the species.
- Analyze the effectiveness of interventions in terms of those that can bring about real change and those that have not and prioritize. Conduct periodic assessments of all actions needed to conserve the endangered koala.
- Develop effective strategies to mitigate forest fires.
- Research and develop strategies to control diseases that affect the population, such as koala retrovirus, koala herpes virus, and chlamydia.
- Develop a national plan to implement outreach efforts in the various areas.
The Australian Department of the Environment has made koala conservation a priority and is working on several strategies. In addition, by taking simple actions, we can all contribute to helping the endangered koalas:
- Do not participate in the illegal trade of the animals. Although this is not one of the primary threats to the koala, it is a cause that contributes to its extinction.
- Avoid clothing made from animal skins. Not only have koalas been nearly wiped out by the demand for skin, but many other animals are slaughtered annually for human fabrics.
- Support the Koala Protection Act by writing to the country's government agencies.
- Donate to the Australian Koala Foundation. The foundation offers a comprehensive support system. For example, you can help a particular koala in the adoption department (you adopt it not to keep it at home, but to ensure its survival), plant trees to reforest its habitat, or donate money.
If you want to read similar articles to Why Was the Koala Recently Declared Endangered?, we recommend you visit our Endangered animals category.
- Australian Koala Foundation. How many left? Available at: https://www.savethekoala.com/spanish/spkoalashowmany
- Australian Koala Foundation. The Koala. Endangered or not? Available at: https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/the-koala-endangered-or-not/
- ACF (2022). Federal government has approved the clearing of 25,000 hectares of koala habitat in the last 10 years. Available at: https://www.acf.org.au/federal-govt-has-approved-clearing-25000ha-koala-habitat-10-yrs
- Australian Government (2022). Koala Conservation . Available at: https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/biodiversity/bushfire-recovery/funding-support/koala-conservationAustralian Government (2022). Increased protection for Koalas. Available at: https://minister.awe.gov.au/law/media-releases/increased-protection-koalas
- Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. (2020). Phascolarctos cinereus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-1.RLTS.T16892A166496779.en