December 12, 2008

Conservationists Implore Australia To Help Save Koalas

Researchers sent out a warning on Thursday that the koala bear will become extinct in parts of Australia if the federal government does not immediately act.

Several Australian scientists will convene with government officials in Canberra today in an attempt to create a national koala conservation plan that keeps thriving populations of the animals from being in danger of extinction.

Fewer than 100,000 koalas are alive in Australia, contrasting the millions of them that thrived before the 1920s, when they started being hunted for their coats, said Deborah Tabart from the Australian Koala Foundation.

"The population of koalas in southeast Queensland has decreased from 10,000 to less than 4,000 in a decade," Tabart stated.

The populace of the southeast area called the Koala Coast has decreased by 26 percent to 4,611 critters since the 1996-1999 survey as expansion infringed upon their natural surroundings, she added.

"We know that there are even less now, in the order of 3,800," Tabart said.

Kat Miller of the World Wildlife Fund also cautions that koalas could become totally extinct in addition to several other kinds of Australia's species.

"There are more than 1,700 federally-listed threatened populations of animals in Australia. There is an extinction crisis in Australia. The koala may well be the next one to go downhill."

The Australian Koala Foundation is asking that the Environment Minister Peter Garrett state publicly that the southeast Queensland koala population is dangerously endangered and protected under the law in an attempt to defend their habitats from additional expansion.

"This is the most important thing Minister Garrett and his department can do right now to show he is serious about saving the koala," said Tabart.
"These declines just cannot continue if we still want to see our beautiful icon here."

Climate change has also contributed to the decline as it has distorted the nutritional make-up of their main source of food, gum tree leaves, Tabart stated.

Autopsies of 700 koalas in southeast Queensland area have revealed that the majority of the creatures were "wasted" when they passed.

"The impact of climate change on the nutritional value of eucalyptus leaves has been proven to affect koalas," she said.

Garrett has stated that he has demanded that Australia's Threatened Species Scientific Committee review the jeopardy facing the koala, but advised that he has to wait for the committee's finding before he do anything.

"This is a clear indication of how seriously the Australian government is considering reports from the Australian Koala Foundation and others on diminishing koala numbers in some regions," the minister announced.


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