Koalas have become so rare that they are now ‘functionally extinct’.
According to The Australian Koala Foundation, there only around 80,000 koalas left in the wild. It might sound a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s actually and depleting number.
‘Functionally extinct’ means when the population of an species is so small that the breeding pairs are so few or none that they will eventually extinct or succumb to genetic disease.
Among 128 federal environments known koala habitats, 41 of them don’t even have koalas.
While these creatures are quite popular for moving around and changing their habitats that make them harder to track, experts are sure that their numbers are depleting.
In 2016, they carried out a study where it was suggested that there were around 330,000 koalas left in Australia, but the number could be as low as 144,000 or as high as 600,000.
The main cause of this possible extinction is human activities itself. From deforestation to heatwaves from climate change, koalas are dying from dehydration due to those waves in the country.
In 2012, International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species as ‘vulnerable’ in their Red List.
Around 8 million koalas were shipped to London after being shot for their fur between 1890 and 1927 reportedly.
The chairman of the Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, said, “I am calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act (KPA) which has been written and ready to go since 2016. The plight of the Koala now falls on his shoulders.”
Koalas have been reported as vulnerable in place like Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Places where the population of koalas used to exist, like Victoria or South Australia, are presumed have already lost the entire species.
‘Functionally extinct’ also means that the species doesn’t have a significant role in the ecosystem.
But koalas reportedly have significant role in Australia and its ecosystem. With fossils of almost 30 million years old, they help by eating the upper leaves of trees and fertilizing soil for cultivation.