An Australia without koalas?

Photomontage: koala and chainsaw In danger of extinction (© Aaron Jacobs - CC BY-SA 2.0 - Montage: Rettet den Regenwald)

Nov 10, 2017

An ecological disaster is looming Down Under: Australia's iconic koalas could be extinct within 25 years if the fragmentation and destruction of their habitat continues.

“Yes, the dear old fluffy koala is suffering along with our other species quite badly,” Ian Darbyshire, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife told HuffPost Australia. “In the past five years, we have seen the population go from about 100,000 to 40,000. At this rate, they will be extinct by 2040.” While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the Red List, gives higher numbers, the direction is clear – the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is listed as “vulnerable”, population trend: decreasing.

Human encroachment is the main culprit in Queensland and New South Wales: Brisbane and the Gold Coast are expanding at the cost of koala habitat. To change trees in sparsely wooded areas, koalas are forced to come down to the ground, where they are often attacked by dogs or meet their end as roadkill.

The loss of extensive forests leaves koala crowded in fragmented patches of woodland, leading to inbreeding, disease and stress. Climate change and large-scale fires are adding to the pressure on Australia’s national icon.