Australia's iconic koala now listed as threatened species
Tue, 01 May 2012 9:26a.m.
Australia's beloved, gum-tree munching koalas have been listed as a threatened species in some parts of the country. There has been a plunge in the wild population due to habitat destruction, road deaths and disease.
Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke listed koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as vulnerable under national environment law.
"We're talking about a species that is not only iconic in Australia, but is known worldwide. A species that has taken a massive hit over the last 20 years and we can't wait any longer before we turn the corner when the scientists are telling us the evidence is in," said Mr Burke.
The Wilderness Society has been campaigning for tougher protection for the animal for years and has described the vulnerable listing as welcome, but long overdue.
"The estimate on present trends is the koala wont be alive in the wild by the time my kid becomes an adult. That's the progression we're going down. It'd be outrageous - the only koalas you'll find will be in the zoo," said the society's national campaign director, Lyndon Schneiders.
Estimates on koala numbers vary, but some studies suggest there are fewer than 80,000 koalas left in the wild - they are now under combined pressures of habitat destruction and climate change. Many carry Chlamydia, which has been blamed for a drop in koala fertility.
Research conducted in Gunnedah, a koala habitat 400km northwest of Sydney, has shown that numbers of the animal have declined by 75 percent since 1993.
Mr Burke said the government had committed AU$300,000 of new funding under the National Environmental Research Program Emerging Priorities to find out more about koala habitat.
3 News / Reuters
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