NEWS

Koalas are now ‘functionally extinct’ after bushfires, report claims

So tragic

A report has claimed that koalas are now ‘functionally extinct’ after the bushfires that are still ravaging some parts of Australia.

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) estimates that 1000 koalas have been killed in recent bushfires and 80 percent of their habitats have been destroyed. 

They say this combined with drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming ‘functionally extinct’. The term functionally extinct can refer to a species whose population has declined to the point where it can no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem.

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A sick koala at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. (Credit: Getty.)

Even prior to the recent bushfires, the future of koalas was in jeopardy when it was estimated by the AKF that there were no more than 80,000 koalas. With many eucalyptus trees destroyed, it could take months for them, the only food source for the animals, to grow back.

However, not all koala experts agree with the AKF’s estimation, with Dr. Christine Hosking, a koala expert at the University of Queensland, telling The Feed that it’s hard to estimate koala numbers: ‘In ecology it’s always grey – there’s never black and white, because koalas are very hard to track and count.’

Fires in Port Macquarie, NSW, earlier this month destroyed Lake Innes Mature reserve, an area that was used as a critical breeding habitat. Koala Conservation president Sue Ashton told News.com.au that 350 koalas had been ‘burnt to ashes’.

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Staff at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital treat dehydrated koala. (Credit: Getty.)

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has taken in many badly injured and dehydrated koalas and is working around the clock to care for them. Along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service they’ve been searching bushland for sick and injured koalas to care for. 

On October 31, the animal hospital started a fundraiser asking for $25,000 to help them with their work and they’ve been inundated with donations with the current total standing at over $1.6 million.

‘We are overwhelmed and humbled with gratitude for the support and care shown by people from all over the world for our efforts to care for koalas now and to try to ensure that we still have koalas for generations to come,’ wrote the hospital in a recent update.

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