AUSTRALIA’S KOALAS AT THE VERGE OF EXTINCTION

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Scientists, based on the recent research outcomes, have warned that the koalas are at the verge of extinct. They had been already identified as an endangered species before few years ago, but the recent bushfires, climatic change and various diseases have increased the threat of extinction now. If the necessary steps are not taken, the symbolic animal of Australia won’t be there anymore by 2050.

Why so important?

You should be possibly, given that you are not a koala-lover or have studied zoology, wondering why we should worry about some species of lazy animals, which do nothing, but eating and sleeping, going extinct and you are forgiven for that. Nonetheless koalas’ role in nature is much complex and important than just eating and sleeping. In fact, the role of every animal is essential for the well-being of a balanced eco-system.

Primarily, koalas are significant to the eco-systems since their scat deposits feed the forest floor that help the woodlands grow and regenerate leading to an increase in biodiversity. Droppings are also known to be a source of food for small mammals and insects. At the same time, the birds are known to use koala fur-known to be very insulating-to make their nests.

On the other hand, koalas hold a very high cultural value in Australia. It is like they are one of the things that make Australia unique. So, the disappearing of koalas will be like removing a huge part of Australia’s identity.

Threats

Habitat loss due to various reasons is the major threat they face. Since the koalas are entirely dependent on Eucalyptus trees, they are jeopardised easily. When bushfires occur, the Eucalyptus trees are more likely to catch fire and they burn intensely. It causes habitat loss for koalas. At the same time, koalas, which live on those trees, get caught in fire given that they are slow movers. According to the reports, more than 6000 koalas have been caught in bushfires occurred in Australia during 2019/20. Including this massive loss, the koala population has been reduced by during the period from 2001-2020.Climatic change and various diseases caught by koalas are the other reasons that contribute to the rapid loss of koala population. The studies depict that the accidents caused to koalas by dogs and vehicle strikes have raised stress in koalas affecting their long-term health.

Having everything aligned in disadvantage for koalas, it is crucial to take immediate actions to preserve the living population of koalas.

Conservation recommendations

The scientists mention that though there are laws and acts to protect koalas in Australia, they are not being enforced enough and need to be amended in order to cater the present requirements regarding koala conservation.

Another thing they recommend to protect koalas from extinction is taking actions against the climate change; global warming especially. It is not that global warming directly affects koalas, but it can worsen the conditions like bushfires and droughts making them lose their habitats and food. And it is not as difficult as you think to take actions against global warming. Starting from your household, refrain or at least reduce the use of polythene and plastic, drive less, recycle, and above all plant a tree!  So, just remember that your small actions do help to preserve the lifeline of koalas in ways you don’t even think.

By Induwara Athapattu