(ORDO NEWS) — Australia has officially listed koalas on its east coast as an endangered species.
These marsupials, which have become the national symbol of the state, are now actually fighting for survival. Due to the devastating wildfires of 2019-2021 and beyond, land clearing for construction, drought and disease, koalas may well be on the brink of extinction.
Conservationists have said that koala populations have declined across much of eastern Australia over the past two decades.
Just a decade earlier, koalas had been listed as a “vulnerable species” on the east coast of Australia. Recall that their natural range is limited to the eastern and southern coasts of the Green Continent.
“We are taking unprecedented action to protect koalas,” said Australian Environment Minister Susan Ley. She also recalls the government’s recent pledge of 50 million Australian dollars (2.6 billion rubles at current exchange rates) to protect and restore koala habitats.
Environmentalists say the Australian government’s attempts to protect koalas so far have failed.
“Over the past decade, koalas have gone from being a low endangered species to a vulnerable and now endangered species. This is an astonishingly rapid decline,” said WWF Australia conservation scientist Stuart Blanch.
“Today’s decision is welcome, but it will not prevent the total extinction of koalas unless accompanied by stricter laws and landowner restrictions to protect [these animals’] forest homes,” Blanch added.
Conservationists say it’s hard to come up with accurate figures for koala populations in the affected eastern states of Australia. But estimates by an independent government advisory body, the Scientific Committee on Endangered Species, have shown that the koala population has fallen from 185,000 in 2001 to 92,000 in 2021.
Alexia Wellbelove of the conservation fund Humane Society International said east coast koalas could be extinct by 2050 unless action is taken to protect them.
“We can no longer afford to cut down forests,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Fund (ACF) says the federal government has approved clearing more than 25,000 hectares of koala habitat, even though the species was declared vulnerable a decade ago.
“Koala extinction may not happen,” added ACF program manager Basha Stasak. “We must stop destroying their habitat for the construction of mines, new housing estates, agricultural projects and industrial logging.”
Australian koalas were in a vulnerable position even before the devastating Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020. This was due to land clearing, droughts, disease, car accidents and dog attacks, according to Josey Sharrad, wildlife campaign manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“We should not have taken the situation to such an extent that now we risk losing the national symbol,” Sharrad said.
“The bushfires were the final straw. This should be a wake up call for the Australian government to act much faster to protect vital habitat from development and land clearing and get serious about addressing the effects of climate change,” she concluded.
The efforts of animal rights activists to save the unique natural diversity of Australia are bearing fruit, so there is a great chance to stop the extinction of koalas.
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