Sydney, Australia, Feb 11 (EFE).- The koala population in three eastern Australian states were on Friday designated as endangered species, with their populations decimated by forest fires, droughts, climate change, habitat loss and disease.
“Today I am increasing the protection for koalas in NSW (New South Wales), the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and Queensland listing them as endangered rather than their previous designation of vulnerable,” environment minister Susan Ley said in a statement.
“The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the advice.”
The minister also said that under the National Environmental Law, she will coordinate next week with the governments of NSW, Queensland and the ACT for a recovery plan.
The government of Canberra, which is seeking re-election this year, has allocated some AU$74 million ($53 million) since 2019 for the protection of the marsupials.
According to official research from 2020, koalas could be extinct in eastern Australia by 2050 as a result of continued habitat destruction and increasingly frequent natural disasters.
Although the official figures claim 180,000 koalas live in the wild along the east coast, Deb Tabart, from the Koala Foundation, told national broadcaster ABC that in reality there are between 50,000 and 80,000 left in the entire country.
This native Australian animal, which also suffers from potentially fatal outbreaks of chlamydia among its population, has lost much of its habitat in Australia due to urban, agricultural and mining development, as well as climate change.
Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are especially sensitive to any change in the environment. They spend about 20 hours a day dozing or resting and use the remaining four hours to feed on leaves of various species of eucalyptus tree, and were one of the biggest victims of the forest fires of the so-called “Black Summer” of 2019-2020, which killed more than 60,000 koalas. EFE