Australian koalas on brink of extinction, say conservationists

Photo taken on Dec. 6, 2020 shows a female Koala in health check in Melbourne, Australia. (Zoos Victoria/Handout via Xinhua)
Koala. Image courtesy: IANS

Canberra: Australia's biggest koala conservation organisation on Tuesday warned that the iconic marsupial is facing extinction.

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) accused the federal government of significantly overestimating koala populations, saying there could be as few as 50,000 left in the wild, reports Xinhua news agency.

"We believe that the federal government has overestimated koala numbers by about 10 times the actual number," AKF chief executive Deborah Tabart told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"We believe that there are less than 80,000 animals left in the wild - it's probably more like 50,000."

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2016 estimated that there were 330,000 koalas in the wild.

However, populations across the country have since been decimated by habitat loss and bushfires.

According to the WWF, 60,000 koalas perished in the 2019-20 "Black Summer" bushfires alone.

Bill Ellis, a researcher at UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, has been studying koala populations since the 1990s.

He said the marsupials are facing extinction for the second time in history after nearly being wiped out by the fur trade.

"It's not just the bushfires, there's also drought and habitat clearing," Ellis told the ABC.

"One hundred years ago, the fur trade nearly wiped out the species. If the fur trade did continue, koalas would have vanished, because we know that in some areas where they were wiped out, they never came back."

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.