Is the koala in danger of extinction?

Phascolarctos cinereus , popularly known as koala, is a species of marsupial mammal endemic to Australia. However, its distribution does not cover the entire country, but rather the east coast, precisely the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Koalas are characterized by being herbivores, their diet is based almost exclusively on eating eucalyptus leaves. As their diet is not very energetic, they spend a large part of the day sleeping on the eucalyptus trees, in fact they sleep more than 14 hours a day. Regarding their longevity, in the wild they can live between 10 to 13 years, while koalas in captivity can live up to 20 years.

Over the years, there has been a lot of news about the situation of koalas, so you may wonder why koalas are in danger of extinction or in a vulnerable situation.

Are koalas in danger of extinction or not?

Let’s start this section knowing the state of conservation of koalas . According to the Red Lists prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the koala is vulnerable to extinction and the number of individuals that make up its populations is declining.

However, there are many controversies regarding the status of the koala. Some scientists pointed to the koalas as functionally extinct , mainly after the strong forest firesthat razed the Australian eucalyptus forests. Now what does it mean that they are functionally extinct? It means that a species does not have a sufficient number of mature individuals capable of reproducing and leaving descendants that will be part of future generations. Fortunately, this has been shown not to be the case for these mammals. While the situation for koalas is far from optimal, they are neither functionally extinct nor in danger of going extinct in a short period of time. However, if we want koala populations to persist over time, we urgently need to curb the threats that contribute to their vulnerability.

To learn more about the koala, we will now comment on how many mammals of this species are left in the world, an interesting fact to see what their current situation is approximately.

In 2016 it was estimated that the total number of koalas in the wild was around 329,000 individuals , which represents a decrease of 24% in the populations of the last three generations. It should be noted that the distribution of koalas is not homogeneous, since after the fires certain populations were extremely affected, while others were unharmed.

Koala threats

Next we will tell you the threats or causes that koalas are in danger , the vast majority of them related to the loss and fragmentation of the koala’s habitat:

  • Development of urbanization. Undoubtedly, this threat leads to the loss and destruction of the habitat of many species of animals in danger of extinction.
  • Transport corridors, routes and railways. They not only contribute to the fragmentation of the habitat but also cause deaths of individuals by road accidents.
  • Deforestation . Within the world ranking, Australia is among the 10 countries with the highest annual deforestation rate.
  • Spontaneous and intentional forest fires. It is estimated that during the extreme fires that occurred between 2019 and 2020, more than 5.8 million hectares of Australian forests were burned.
  • Diseases. In particular, koala populations are affected by the bacteria that cause chlamydia disease. This disease causes blindness, infertility and can even be fatal.
  • Climate change . This threat increases the vulnerability of koalas from several points of view. In principle, climate change causes more events of drought and extreme temperatures and, as a result, more fires occur. In addition, it is estimated that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere modifies the composition of eucalyptus leaves, reducing the amount of proteins it has and increasing the concentration of tannins. It should be remembered that eucalyptus leaves are the main food of the koala.
  • Hunting and mascotism . Both the poaching for trophies or parts for the black market and the capture of these animals for their illegal sale as pets, are activities that put the species at serious risk, as is the case with all the species that are affected by them.

How to help endangered koalas

As you may have noticed, there are many threats that put koalas in a vulnerable situation. What can we do to prevent koalas from becoming extinct? Here we will tell you some tips:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint. Any daily activity that reduces the volume of greenhouse gases that we emit into the atmosphere will undoubtedly help to reverse the situation of the koala.
  • Get involved in the cause. You don’t have to live in Australia to be involved in koala conservation. There are several organizations that receive donations and, thanks to them, you can virtually adopt a koala and help it continue to live in its habitat.
  • Don’t encourage illegal trafficking. This advice is useful for the conservation of all species on planet Earth. Koalas in particular are a very charismatic species and that leads to many people loving them as pets. But we must not forget that the best place where a koala can be is in its natural habitat.

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