Koala numbers have fallen so low, they are now classified as “functionally extinct,” according to numbers from a prominent conservation group.
The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are “no more than 80,000 Koalas” left in the wild in Australia, which means the species is now defined as “functionally extinct.”
The term ‘functionally extinct’ is given to a species of animal that, in the words of AKF, is “beyond the point of recovery”, and can no longer play a noticeable role in its typical ecosystem; it also describes a species that has no pairs left to reproduce, or a population that suffers from inbreeding, risking genetic disease.
“The AKF thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia,” it says. “This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” Deborah Tabart, head of the AKF said.
Since 2010, the AKF says it has been monitoring 128 electoral districts within ‘well known’ koala habitats; their numbers purport that in 41 electorates, no koalas were found.
Exact numbers of koala populations are difficult to determine, however, research cited by Science Alert estimates a “percentage of koala population loss in QLD, NSW, VIC and SA was 53%, 26%, 14% and 3% respectively.”
“The estimated total number of koalas for Australia was 329,000 (within a range of 144,00-605,000), with an estimated average decline of 24%% over the past three generations and the next three generations.”
Head of the AKF Deborah Tabart has raised serious concerns with the discourse between industry and lawmakers following her involvement with a 2011 Senate Inquiry that exposed the species was at risk of extinction if industry was left unchecked. “While sitting in the Senate Inquiry,” Tabart said, “you could hear industry pleading with Senators to continue allowing them to have their way with habitats around the country.”
Other hazards severely impacting koala numbers include heatwaves which are more frequently producing bushfires that ravish bushland, as well as land clearing making space for expanding housing developments and large scale infrastructure projects like b-roads and highways.
Tabart is calling “on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act, which has been written and ready to go since 2016. The plight of the koala now falls on his shoulders,” she said.
“I know the Australian public are concerned for the safety of Koalas and are tired of seeing dead Koalas on our roads. It is time for the Government to respect the Koala and protect its habitat,” Tabart concluded in her press release.