Koalas are 'functionally extinct with only 80,000 left in wild'
JC News|May. 15, 2019
The number of koalas in Australia has fallen so low the species is “functionally extinct” and unlikely to produce a new generation, campaigners have warned.
The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) believes there are as little as 80,000 left in the wild across the country.
Functionally extinct is used to describe a species which has a population so low that it can no longer play a role in its ecosystem.
It also describes a species which has no pairs left to reproduce, or a population that suffers from inbreeding, risking genetic disease.
The AKF said that, since 2010, it had monitored 128 electoral districts that fall within known koala environments.
It found 41 of those area have none left.
The foundation is now calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten to protect the koala.
It says the species’ "fate is in their hands”.
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.”
Precise figures for Australia’s koala population vary.
Koalas were officially listed as vulnerable in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory in May 2012, meaning numbers are in or at risk of steep decline.
Researchers also say koalas are hard to track because they move around so much, but have acknowledged that their numbers have nosedived.
While not listed as vulnerable in Victoria or South Australia, local populations of koalas are known to have gone extinct.
Studies have found heatwaves caused by climate change and habitat loss from deforestation are two of the biggest threats to koalas.
Ms Tabart added: “It is time for Australian forests to be protected.
“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.”