Aus­tralian Govt Urged to In­ter­vene to Save Iconic Koalas from Ex­tinc­tion

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Aus­tralian ecol­o­gists have called for the fed­eral govern­ment to ur­gently pro­duce a threat­ened species re­cov­ery plan for iconic koala pop­u­la­tions.

Kara Youn­gen­tob, an ecol­o­gist from the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity (ANU), said that a re­cov­ery plan for the mar­su­pi­als should “ab­so­lutely be a pri­or­ity,” with habi­tat loss from forestry op­er­a­tions ex­ac­er­bated by the “Black Sum­mer” bush­fire cri­sis. Re­cov­ery plans serve “to max­imise the long-term sur­vival” of Aus­tralian wildlife and come with a three-year dead­line to im­ple­ment and fund.

For­mer En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt in 2015 au­tho­rized a re­cov­ery plan for koalas which is now two years over­due. Youn­gen­tob told Nine En­ter­tain­ment news­pa­pers that only one species of tree was grow­ing back to dom­i­nate areas af­fected by log­ging and bush­fires, cre­at­ing “food deserts” for koalas.

“Their pop­u­la­tions are like lit­tle lights and they will con­tinue to blink out across their habi­tat range un­til it’s to­tally dark,” she said.

“The cur­rent pro­tec­tions in place aren’t enough to en­sure pop­u­la­tions don’t con­tinue to de­cline. There have been lo­calised ex­tinc­tions and they may con­tinue.”

James Trezise, a pol­icy an­a­lyst from the Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion, said that koalas were “smashed by last sum­mer’s bush­fires.”

An es­ti­mated 25,000 koalas per­ished in the bush­fires on Kan­ga­roo Is­land off the coast of South Aus­tralia (SA), ap­prox­i­mately half of the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion. A fur­ther 10,000 died in New South Wales (NSW), one third of the state’s pop­u­la­tion.

“This is an iconic species that peo­ple hold dear and it’s in­valu­able to Aus­tralia’s cul­ture and also to the tourism in­dus­try,” Trezise said.

Aus­tralian ecol­o­gists are call­ing for the pro­tec­tion of koala pop­u­la­tions.

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