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Who doesn’t love koalas, the cute teddy-bear-like animals native to Australia? The cute facial expression, small size, and fuzzy fur make anyone swoon over them. Sadly, since February 2022, the status of this native animal of Australia that previously was “vulnerable” officially changed to “endangered”. These status changes raise a question, why are koalas endangered in Australia despite previously thriving?
The report says that the status changes occur due to habitat loss, floods, wildfires, and droughts. If this continues, we might not be able to see this cute animal again in a few decades.
Koalas Would be Extinct by 2050
The koalas were thriving a decade ago. However, land clearing, drought, bushfires, disease, and other threats have caused its population to decline. In 2019 and 2020, severe wildfires injured and killed almost 60,000 koalas.
The negatively impacted koalas received treatments from Australian Army vets to ensure they survived. Sadly it is not enough, as the rapid destruction of their natural habitat still forces these animals to flee, causing them to lose their home and food supply.
Koalas experienced a status change from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered only within a decade. In fact, a report stated that there might be only 50,000 koalas left in the wild. Without proper intervention to help these animals, koalas would be extinct by 2050.
What Causes The Extinction of Koalas in Australia?
Why are koalas endangered in Australia? Research shows that the major causes of the declining population of Koalas are climate changes and natural habitat loss. Climate changes gradually increase the temperature, which contributes to forest fires.
Humans are also involved in land clearing or deforestation for industrial or rural development. This forces them to travel to find a safer place to live, which can be dangerous for them. Traveling on the ground will expose them to the urban situation, which may lead to accidents that can injure or even kill them.
Traveling for koalas can also increase their stress level, leading to death. There are also risks of infectious disease outbreaks such as chlamydia and retrovirus in the koala.
The Countermeasures Conducted by The Australian Government
International Fund for Animal Welfare, WWF-Australia, and HIS announced that Koala is now endangered. With the announcement of the endangered status, a national recovery plan to rescue Koalas was made. The plan includes identifying the main thread and the countermeasure action to prevent further population decline.
This iconic animal was supposed to be protected decades ago. Sadly, the national environmental laws are not enough to prevent the ongoing destruction of wildlife habitat in Queensland and New South Wales, resulting in the declining koala’s population.
A new investment of $76 million was prepared for koala conservation projects. The new investment includes large-scale habitation restoration, monitoring koala health, and many more.
Aside from the conservation projects, some existing projects are currently in progress and recently completed. They include habitat restoration, koala protection and recovery at additional sites, threat mitigation, koala health initiatives, and National Koala Monitoring Program.
The Important Role of Koalas in The Ecosystem Balance
Koalas are important for ecosystem balance in Australia. Therefore, Koala extinction will also pose environmental risks and problems. First of all, koalas consume excess vegetation that helps reduce biomass, some of the contributors to intense bushfires in the dry season.
Koala droppings contain nutrients that are good for the soil. It helps the regeneration of the forest floor and provides food supplies for insects and small rodents, which in turn helps increase biodiversity on the forest floor.
Large carnivores also prey on koalas, which helps the cycle of the food chain to be balanced. That is why protecting koalas from extinction will help the forest itself in the long run.
There will be a long journey to help prevent koalas from extinction. However, it is possible as long as it is done right away. Finding out why are koalas endangered in Australia is the first step; the next thing is implementing countermeasures.
Now that you know why koalas are on the brink of extinction, why don’t you check out other endemic animals of Australia, such as the kangaroo? Why is kangaroo the national animal of Australia?