The sad news has emerged that the much loved animal, the koala, has had a huge fall in numbers and is now so low they are ‘functionally extinct’.
The Australian Koala Foundation stated that there are just 80,000 koalas left in the wild which to many may sound like a lot but it means they will be unlikely to produce a new generation, which is such sad news.
When a population is so low it has stopped affecting its environment, has so few breeding pairs that the species could succumb to genetic disease or have no pairs of breeding adults left it means the species is ‘functionally extinct’.
It’s been reported by the foundation that there are no koalas left at all in 41 out of 128 Federal environments that are known koala habitats.
Koalas tend to move around and alter their habitat, therefore sometimes making them harder to track, researchers believe numbers are in a continuous decline.
In 2016, research suggested there was around 330,000 koalas left in Australia, however this number could be as low as 144,000 or as high as 600,000.
Deforestation is one reason why Koalas are dying out as well as habitat loss and heatwaves causing climate change. According to recent studies, thousands of koalas died from dehydration last year after an intense heatwave in the country.
The animal has been Listed as a ‘vulnerable’ species since 2012 on the Red List, compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Between 1890 and 1927, around 8 million koalas were reportedly shipped to London after being shot for their fur.
Chairman of the Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, has called for the Australian prime minister to take urgent action to save the native species.
“I am calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act (KPA) which has been written and ready to go since 2016.”
“The plight of the Koala now falls on his shoulders.”
In Queensland, Koalas are listed as vulnerable, as well as New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
They are not listed as vulnerable in Victoria or South Australia, local populations are thought to have already gone extinct unfortunately.
‘Functionally extinct’ describes a species that has declined to such a low point that it no longer plays a significant role in its ecosystem.
Koalas help keep forests healthy by eating the upper leaves of trees, and fertilising the forest floor with their droppings.