Australias Government Gives Koalas Threatend Species Status
May 1, 2012

Australian Government Gives Koalas Threatend Species Status

For the first time ever, koalas in some parts of Australia have been listed as a threatened species by the Australian government.

Facing serious threats from climate change and urban expansion, koala populations in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland have made their way onto the nation´s vulnerable species list.

The list was created to keep development away from the areas where the koalas are threatened. Over the past 2 decades, the koala population has fallen by 40% in Queensland and by one-third in New South Wales.

The decision to place the koalas on the vulnerable species list follows an Australian Senate report released last year which recommended listing the animals as threatened and boosting the funding for conservation.

In addition to battling climate change, disease and encroaching development, the Senate report also cited domestic dogs as a threat to koala populations. As a part of the long “cause-and-effect” chain that climate change can impose, the warmer summers have sent koalas into residential neighborhoods where they drink from swimming pools and water bowls. There, they often have fatal run-ins with domestic dogs protecting their territory.

The koalas favorite food, eucalyptus, is also in danger as it´s aggressively cleared to make way for urban development. What eucalyptus remains has its nutritional value destroyed by the excess of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Speaking to The Guardian, Australia's environment minister Tony Burke said, “Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they hold a special place in the community.”

“People have made it very clear to me that they want to make sure the koala is protected for future generations. Koala populations are under serious threat from habitat loss and urban expansion, as well as vehicle strikes, dog attacks, and disease.”

One of Australia´s top koala scientists at the University of Central Queensland has called the listing “a big step forward,” but said the listing alone won´t be enough to deal with all the threats the koalas face.

"The listing alone will not save the koala," ecologist Professor Alistair Melzer told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It's basically a label that says we've got to a point where koalas are in serious trouble and need careful management if they're going to survive."

Previously, Melzer has called for a “federal report card” to track the progress made in koala conservation.

However, Mr. Burke says the problem isn´t the same for every region in Australia. ““¦koala numbers vary significantly across the country, so while koala populations are clearly declining in some areas, there are large, stable or even increasing populations in other areas.”

“In fact, in some areas in Victoria and South Australia, koalas are eating themselves out of suitable foraging habitat and their numbers need to be managed.”

This action is welcomed by many experts and environmentalists, though it is still unclear how many koalas are still left in these areas. According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there aren´t many koalas left in the wild. Deborah Tabart, the foundation´s chief executive told “At the moment we´re still of the opinion that there´s not that many koalas, less than 100,000. Victoria still needs to be protected.” “I´m delighted with this because it is going to slow things down, but it´s not going to save our koalas.”