Australia’s Koala Numbers Down 30% in 3 Years

Image: Till Niermann via Wikimedia Commons

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, 30% of the nation’s Koalas have been lost to drought, bushfires, and logging in just three years. The population has dropped to 58,000 from more than 80,000 in 2018, and no regions saw positive population growth. These findings arrive just days after the country doubled down on its plans to advance coal production despite its impacts on the environment.

 

Why This Matters: One million species now face extinction, including 39 species listed as “endangered” or “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List. In March 2021, the Australian government confirmed the extinction of 13 endemic species, confirming the nation’s first place spot for mammal extinction. The acceleration of climate change and its impacts now threatens to wipe out recently thriving species, and much sooner rather than later. And the sudden disappearance of keystone species threatens to destabilize ecosystems even further.

 

In the Old Gum Tree

Drought, bushfires, and logging are now the leading threats to koalas. “What we’re concerned about is places like western New South Wales where the drought over the last 10 years has just had this cumulative effect — river systems completely dry for years, river red gums, which are the lifeblood of koalas, dead,” explained Australian Koala Foundation Chair Deborah Tabart. In New South Wales, koala populations declined by a shocking 41%, and some regions are estimated to have just 5 to 10 individuals left. “I just think action is now imperative…these figures are right. They’re probably worse.”

 

Conservationists like Tabart are calling for the Australian government to implement protections for koalas. In June, the government called for public comments on a national recovery plan for populations in New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. They are also considering raising the species classification from “vulnerable” to “endangered.”

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