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Current Affairs

Koala listed as endangered by Australia

Date: 14 February 2022 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

The Koalas of Australia have been officially listed as ‘endangered’ species after their numbers declined drastically.

 

Background

Koala is a marsupial and is found exclusively in Australia. This makes their protection even more important.

 

Details

  • Their numbers have declined due to widespread bushfires, land clearing and droughts that destroyed their eucalyptus-rich habitat.

  • The conservation status will be upgraded from ‘vulnerable’ in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

 

Koalas in Australia

Koala species have been living in Australia since at least 25 million years. Currently, only Phascolarctos cinereus species remains.

 

Population reduction

  • Koalas have faced widespread habitat loss since the settling of Europeans due to expansion of agriculture and urbanization.

  • Eucalyptus trees, which provide Koalas with their primary diet, have reduced significantly owing to deforestation.

 

Reasons for endangered declaration

  • The number of Koalas has declined by between 33 per cent and 61 per cent since 2001. It appears that they are on the verge of extinction.

  • Despite pleas by various environment and citizen groups, the government has failed to take concrete steps for their protection. They were declared vulnerable only in 2012.

 

Threats for Koalas

  • The ‘Black Summer’ catastrophic bushfires of 2019 impacted 60,000 koalas as their habitats got destroyed, making them unlivable.

  • A sexually transmitted disease known as Chlamydia has been causing blindness and cysts in the koalas’ reproductive tract.

 

Government action

  • The Australian government plans to spend $35 million in the next four years for the conservation and recovery of the koala population.

  • It would include restoring koala habitat, improving understanding of koala populations, training in koala treatment and care, and research into koala health outcomes.

 

Significance of endangered tag

  • The change in conservation status does not compel the Australian government to take special action.

  • There is an urgent need to prevent land clearing and to reverse the effects of climate change. Their forest homes need to be provided with greater protection.