HomeOutdoorsAustralia’s Beloved Koala Bear Nearing Extinction

Australia’s Beloved Koala Bear Nearing Extinction

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Koalas may soon go the way of the Dodo birds. Scientists believe the koala bear is at risk for extinction if trends don’t change.

Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Australia’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee list the species as “vulnerable to extinction.” Scientists predict the organizations may soon list the species as “endangered.”

“The long-term trends for these koala hotspots paint a picture of a steady decline in populations,” said Dr. Edward Narayan. He released a study on the species’ population decline.

Scientists examined 29 years of data from three wildlife conservation groups in Australia. These conservation groups rescued sick koala bears. They treated the animals for illnesses like chlamydia before releasing them back into the wild. They found that over time the rates of euthanasia due to disease increased. In contrast, the rates of the organizations releasing the animals back into the wild have decreased.

“This study indicates that, between all three rescue sites, koalas are most often rescued due to signs of chlamydia,” Narayan continued. “And the outcomes of the treatment were often favorable – with most koalas released back into the natural environment following treatment.”

The Koala Bear Is Susceptible to Bushfires and Habitat Destruction

Scientists said reasons for the species’ compromised immune systems include both bushfires and habitat destruction by human activity. For instance, urban development has destroyed koala habitats. Additionally, dog attacks and automobile traffic are responsible for many of the animals’ deaths in cities.

“Any disturbance to an animals habitat activates the physiological stress response. And if said stressors do not cease, the excessive production of glucocorticoids can leave the animal with a compromised immune system. And therefore likely to contract a disease,” said experts from Western Sydney University and the University of Queensland.  

To protect the species, the experts urge the Australian government to develop better bushfire control and environmental planning agencies.

‘There is an urgent need to strengthen on-ground management, bushfire control regimes, environmental planning and governmental policy actions that should hopefully reduce the proximate environmental stressors,” the experts continued. ‘This will ensure that in the next decade, beyond 2020, NSW koalas will hopefully start to show reversed trends and patterns in exposure to environmental trauma and disease, and population numbers will return towards recovery.’  

[H/T: Daily Mail]