Koalas have been declared ‘functionally extinct’ and therefore an unsustainable species after numbers in the wild have plummeted to just 80,000, activists have warned.
The Australian Koala Foundation said that numbers of koalas have fallen so dramatically that they will not be able to sustain the next generation or play a significant role in the ecosystem.
The critically low numbers means there’s a risk of inbreeding and genetic diseases.
The AKF monitors 128 districts which should be koala environments, and have been in the past, but 41 of the areas have no koalas left at all.
The main issue for koalas is deforestation due to humans, and the AKF has called on the Australian government to act on the declining numbers or witness the species’ inevitable demise.
AKF chairman Deborah Tabart said: “I’m calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act, which has been written and ready to go since 2016. The plight of the koala now falls on his shoulders.”
Koalas also face threats from overheating due to climate change. The animals are notoriously hard to track so estimates of population are not thought to be accurate – some campaigners believe there are less than 43,000 remaining.
In Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia researchers say numbers have declined by 24% in just six generations.
“It is time for Australian forests to be protected,” Tabart continued.
“Both parties say they want to protect the environment. It would be a great way to start by protecting Koala forests which cover 20 per cent of our continent.
“I know the Australian public are concerned for the safety of Koalas and are tired of seeing dead Koalas on our roads. It is time for the Government to respect the Koala and protect its habitat.”
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