The iconic koala needs our protection

The iconic koala needs our protection

Koalas are in trouble. They are a treasured national icon, yet there is no consistent or comprehensive approach to their protection.

The koala is emblematic of the issues facing Australian native wildlife. Its life is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its habitat because of insensitive development, human-animal conflict and land clearing from logging—all of which often causes injury or death.

The loss of eucalyptus trees—the koala’s food--leads to more time spent on the ground where koalas can be hurt by dogs or car strikes. Habitat fragmentation is also thought to increase the koala’s vulnerability to drought and diseases including Chlamydia and koala retrovirus, which are decimating the species in many areas.

Yet some populations in southern Australia are considered over-abundant.

Last week, Environment Minister, Tony Burke, announced Australia's most at-risk koala populations need to be included on the national list of threatened species. The listing is good news for koalas but it must be followed up with action from both state and federal governments if it is going to translate into effective protection for koalas in the trees as well as on the ground.

What’s needed is a coordinated, well-funded and standardized approach to:

  • Population estimates and monitoring
  • Disease research and control
  • Protecting key habitats from logging, roads and development
  • Disease research and control
  • Effective dog management

Population estimates are not reliable at the state or federal level. Some estimates suggest 10 million koalas existed before European settlement began with numbers now just a fraction of that.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee calculates that the population was 200,000 in 2010, down from 430,000 in 1990. The lack of better population estimates is the reason that the committee has not recommended listing koalas to date. But there is now more recent evidence of sharp declines, sometimes as much as 80 percent, in areas where good data does exist.

Email state and federal officials to voice your concern that more must be done to protect one of our national treasures.



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