Over the past few decades, Australia’s adorable koala species have faced the brunt of several calamities, from drought to bushfires to climate change. The once abundant species has disappeared at an alarming rate in the eastern parts of the continent.
Amid the growing threat to its population, Australia has upgraded the koala’s conservation status from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ in Queensland, New South Wales and the British Columbia Territory. Australian capital. The status comes just below the classification of critically endangered and extinct species.
The announcement was made recently by Environment Minister Sussan Ley, following suggestions from the Scientific Committee on Endangered Species. “The new listing highlights the challenges the species faces and ensures that any assessments under the law will be considered not just in terms of local impacts, but in relation to the koala population within the meaning wide,” she said.
The decision comes ten years after koalas were first listed as ‘vulnerable’ following widespread land clearing and bushfires reducing habitat for marsupials.
Conservation groups such as Humane Society International (HSI), WWF-Australia and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have actively supported the status enhancement initiative.
Environmental groups have campaigned to have koalas listed as endangered since the horrific 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires that claimed the lives of around 5,000 koalas and consecutively burned down 24% of their natural habitat in New South Wales.
Alarming projections estimate that there could be only 50,000 koalas left in the wild. New South Wales experts say koalas could be extinct by 2050 unless there is urgent action. World Wildlife Fund-Australia says thousands of koalas are facing the brunt of the growing wildfires in various forms, including death, injury, trauma, smoke inhalation, heat stress, dehydration, habitat loss, reduced food supply, to name a few. .
Calling for an urgent need for action, experts are also developing recovery plans as well as land-use strategies for species protection.
Meanwhile, the government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced a $35 million fund to support conservation efforts and launch the long-awaited stimulus package. The fund would be used to restore their habitat, improve understanding of koala populations, support training in koala treatment and care, and strengthen research into koala health outcomes.
According to the WWF, these marsupial species have dominated parts of Australia for almost 25 million years. However, today Australia is primarily home to one species, scientifically known as the Phascolarctos cinereus.
Scientists have previously warned that climate change is most likely to worsen the situation for future bushfires and drought in the region. This could have a direct impact on animals as well as their diet of eucalyptus leaves. This is why urgent action is needed now to rebuild the habitat and protect the koalas from further suffering.
(with contributions from IANS)
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