2:40 PM PST, February 11, 2022
They’re cute and cuddly, but now they’re endangered.
The koala, one of the most iconic animals in Australia, could go extinct if action isn’t taken now to protect them, according to government officials.
“The koala has been under pressure for a while because of climate change, because of long dry spells,” Sussan Ley, Australia Environment Minister, stated. “As a rural Australian, I know that well, and also because of disease.”
“We estimate that up to 50 percent of our populations have chlamydia, so that’s a real pressure. And, of course, the bushfires.”
One study reported that 60,000 koalas were lost to wildfires in 2019 and 2020 combined.
Not only the animals themselves but a habitat area equivalent to half the size of Germany was destroyed.
Even before the most recent fires, koalas were losing their habitat to development and clearing for agriculture.
It’s an issue the government says it’s trying to resolve.
“Well, it’s true that we live or like to live where koalas live,” Ley added. “But those developments require what are called offsets, which means that there needs to be a koala habitat put back.”
“So what this announcement is about is making sure that it is done in the best and strongest possible way.”
Koalas were previously listed as a vulnerable species, but after further research, officials say it’s time to prioritize their conservation to make sure these adorable animals are always around.