With the koala becoming 'functionally extinct', here's what needs to be to done to save the species

The iconic marsupial has dropped down in numbers to only 80,000 in the wild with the AKF report declaring the animal as 'functionally extinct'


                            With the koala becoming 'functionally extinct', here's what needs to be to done to save the species

A recent report released by the Australian Koala Foundation (AFK) has declared the koala as "functionally extinct". The iconic marsupial has dropped down in numbers to only 80,000 in the wild. This means that there aren't enough breeding adults across colonies left to support a future generation of the animals. The species, which lives in trees, is being severely affected by the effects of rising temperatures and heatwaves.

This has, in turn, caused massive deforestation and fatal dehydration in the animals. According to the AKF report, only 41 of the 128 known habitats for the koala in federal environments have any of the animals left in them.

(Source: Australian Koala Foundation)

The organization also said in their report that if a new disease or genetic pathogen of any kind is introduced, the remaining koalas will die off rapidly. Activists are now pleading with local politicians to step in. The Koala Protection Act, which is an act to hold companies accountable for felling eucalyptus trees, is aimed at protecting the habitat of the animal, which will, in turn, protect the koala. It is also based on USA's Bald Eagle Act, which was successful in rescuing the bird from the threatened species list.

AKF chairman Deborah Tabart spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) about the Koala Protection Act and said: "The KPA will place the onus of proof on the proponent to prove their activity on any given landscape is benign, rather than being given a permit to destroy and then the community has to fight to stop something. Over my 31 year career, I have rarely seen the community or the Koala win. It will also not give a Permit to Take, which is a nice way of saying a Licence to Kill."

The country has seen an unprecedented amount of its eucalyptus forests being chopped to service various industries. Aside from losing the koala, which is an Australian icon, MEAWW asked Tabart what the other repercussions are which will be felt from losing this habitat.

She said: "I am confident the forests of Australia are a carbon sink and that destroying them will make our continent even hotter. We had an unprecedented summer. In western NSW they had over 35c for over 3 weeks and most of the river systems I saw recently on a trip out there were dry. The Mooki, the Namoi and Lake Keepit. How can this be? Not just drought but complete mismanagement of water systems and of course the Koala relies on healthy riparian areas. I am truly shocked at the state of some of our rivers."

(Source: Joseph Pérez/Unsplash)

A sign of a healthy forest is a sign that the koala is also doing well. When asked about what would happen if the koala does, in fact, go extinct, Tabart said: "I think the Koala being in a healthy forest is a sign of a healthy landscape and they are becoming few and far between. Our landscape is drying out, and that brings more fires. We will all suffer. No Tree No Me."

The whole situation isn't looking good for the koala and the rapid decline in their eucalyptus habitat pose some serious problems for the species. The koalas left in the areas where they still haven't gone extinct have problems of their own, aside from losing the trees they depend on.

Tabart said: "Out of 128 electorates in Australia, 41 are extinct. Only 5 have more than 5000 animals and most of them are genetically identical. We are not down to breeding pairs, but the fragmentation of habitat means that one colony in one landscape cannot breed with another if they have a barrier like a road or development. Zoos then step in and think they can fix it.  If that were true then the White Rhino would still be here."

The only way to try and save the species now is through constant political intervention and more awareness being spread among the citizens. Tabart said: "I think the people of the world are behind the Koala and I think as soon as the PM is elected, I will tell the truth about what is happening more and more. [It's] time for real change." 

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