In yet another case of habitat destruction endangering an already protected wildlife species, Australia’s koala bears are facing extinction unless concerned citizens and government officials can stem the tide of urbanization sweeping across the country’s eastern seaboard.
According to a recent survey by the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF), a third of the country’s viable koala habitats no longer support any of the marsupial “bears,” while the remaining two-thirds are in rough shape. “I truly believe that in my lifetime the koala will become extinct unless we do something,” says AKF’s executive director Deborah Tabarat.
Today only 100,000 or so koalas remain. Seven to 10 million koalas inhabited Australia at the time of white settlement two centuries ago. While the Australian government considers the koala a “vulnerable” species, it has not protected the eucalyptus groves upon which the species depend for food and habitat. Urbanization and development have caused extensive sprawl, especially on Australia’s east coast where most of the continent’s people, as well as koalas, live.
Beyond habitat loss, more than 4,000 koalas die every year from dog attacks and car collisions. This one-two punch, according to Tabarat, could lead to Australia’s koalas going extinct in the wild within 15 years.