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Why Australia has listed koalas as endangered species

  • Published
    12th Feb, 2022
Context

The Australian government declared the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) as ‘Endangered’ in the states of Queensland and New South Wales as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

Background

Reasons for decline in population:

  • Habitat Loss:
  • As per a WWF report, the fossil records shows that Koala species have inhabited parts of Australia for at least 25 million years.
  • But today, only one species remains ‘the Phascolarctos cinereus’.
  • Since Europeans first settled in the region, the Koala population has faced widespread habitat loss, particularly due to agriculture and the construction of urban settlements.
  • They survive on a strict diet of up to a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves every day. Due to the low nutritional value of these leaves, koalas tend to sleep for extended periods, often up to 18 hours a day, to conserve energy.
  • Disease: Chlamydia, a bacterial disease, has wrought havoc on koala populations by forming cysts inside breeding adults, leading to infertility.
  • Bushfire:
  • The biggest culprit has been the bushfire season of 2019-20, known in Australia as ‘Black Summer’.
  • According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), it killed billions of animals and organisms. An estimated 143 million mammals, 180 million birds, 51 million frogs and 2.5 billion reptiles were affected due to the disaster.
  • More than 60,000 koalas were among the animals impacted by the bushfires

Why did the Australian government finally declare Koalas endangered?

  • Australia’s Koala population has been on the road to extinction for over two decades now.
  • The number of Koalas in New South Wales declined by between 33 per cent and 61 per cent since 2001
  • In Queensland the Koala population decreased by at least half during the same period.

Will the change in status make a difference?

  • The Endangered status of the koala means that Koalas and their forest homes should be provided with greater protection under Australia’s national environmental law. 
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