Koalas are now ‘functionally’ extinct

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With their numbers dramatically decreasing in the last few years, koalas have been declared functionally extinct. Today, the Australian Koala Foundation announced there are less then 80,000 individuals left in the wild. And even if for many this number sounds like a lot, according to experts it actually means like very small odds for the species to produce a new generation.

“The Australian Koala Foundation thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia. This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” the foundation’s chairman, Deborah Tabart said. Back in 2016, the experts suggested to be around 330,000 koalas left in the wild.

Indeed, it is pretty hard to estimate how many of those adorable animals remains in the Australian territories, but threats as deforestation, disease and the climate change have a major impact on their population decline.

The term ‘functionally extinct’ refers to a population that have decline so much as their role in the ecosystem is irrelevant. In this particular case, it means that koala populations have declined so far that the species no longer plays a significant role in its ecosystem.

Native to Eastern Australia, koalas main food source is Eucalyptus with an adult consuming around 2,2 pound. Eucalyptus is normally poisonous to most species, but koalas have evolved a special bacteria that allow them to break down toxic compounds. Because they only absorb around 25 percent of fiber eaten, important nutrients and other organic material to the forest floor, Eco Watch reports.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are no koalas left in 41 out of its 128 native environments. Some heart-breaking news given that koalas have been identified with the Australian culture as first records of the koala existence are dating back to 30 million years.

“The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance,” said the San Diego Zoo. “Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.”

The Koala Foundation says urgent measures must be taken in order to save the species. “I am calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act (KPA) which has been written and ready to go since 2016. The plight of the Koala now falls on his shoulders,” Deborah Tabart also said.