Australia listed koalas as endangered on Friday in the states of New South Wales and Queensland. Scientists and academics have warned that koalas could become extinct unless the government immediately intervened to protect them and their habitat.
Areas where koalas live have been hit by bushfires, droughts and developers who cut down trees. “The koala has been under pressure for a while because of climate change, because of long dry spells,” Australia’s Environment Minister Sussan Ley said. “And of course the bushfires.”
The bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020 had killed or injured more than 60,000 koalas, a World Wide Fund for Nature study estimated. But even before the fires, koala habitats had rapidly declined due to land clearing for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry. Australia has lost about 30% of its koalas over the past three years, the Australian Koala Foundation said.
Although they said it should have happened much earlier, environment groups welcomed the decision. “We should never have allowed things to get to the point where we are at risk of losing a national icon,” Josey Sharrad, manager at International Fund for Animal Welfare, said.