Research Suggests That Koalas Are Now 'Functionally Extinct' In The Wild

Animal campaigners believe that koalas are now 'functionally extinct' as a species as a result of falling numbers.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are as little as 80,000 koalas remaining in the wild, which means that they are unlikely to be able to produce the next generation.

Basically, 'functionally extinct' means that a population of animals is so small that it no longer effects its environment, has no pairs left that can breed, or can still breed but has no chance of avoiding genetic disease because there are so few of them.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The foundation has been monitoring 128 federal electorates in Australia since 2010 that were known to be within koala-friendly environments, but now there are 41 of those areas that have no koalas left.

It should be noted that these animals are famously difficult to track because they move around a bit and have a patchwork habitat. However, what is abundantly clear is that numbers are most certainly plummeting.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

A study of koalas back in 2016 found that there were between 144,000 and 600,000 koalas left in the wild. That's a big drop in a short space of time given that there were several million less than 100 years ago.

Between the late 1800s and 1927 it is thought that more than eight million dead koalas were shipped over to the UK as a result of the fur trade.

So, what is causing their numbers to dwindle so dramatically?

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Well, heatwaves that occur as a result of climate change are definitely not helping. Also their habitat is being destroyed. That ain't helping either.

Thousands of them died of dehydration last year after one such heatwave, according to research.

In fact, this has been in the post for a while. Koalas have been listed as vulnerable since 2012 in many Australian territories.

That includes Queensland, New South Wales, and the territories surrounding the Australian capital, Canberra.

Their vulnerable status means that their populations are in a state of steep decline, or that they are at risk of entering such a decline.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Whilst their numbers are holding relatively strongly in some areas of other provinces like Victoria and South Australia, in some places populations are still known to be going extinct.

The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, told the Daily Mail: "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."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a freelance journalist and LADbible contributor. He graduated from University of London with a BA in Philosophy before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. He has previously written for the M.E.N Group as well as working for several top professional sports clubs. Contact him on [email protected]

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