Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team
Date: February 16, 2022 9:42 pm
Photo Credit: The Animal Facts. File Photo.
The Australian government have declared the koala endangered in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The move has been applauded by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance who are working to save the species in its homeland.
Following declines over the past decade the koala population has been pushed over the edge by the megafires which swept the country in 2020.
Experts from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance first made presentations to the Queensland and Australian Commonwealth Governments as far back as 2009 suggesting that the species should be listed as endangered due to threats they faced.
“The announcement yesterday (Feb. 11, 2022) that government officials have protections for this species is a welcomed one,” said Nadine Lamberski, D.V.M, chief conservation and wildlife health officer, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
“In 2018 many conservationists were expressing concern that koalas would go extinct by 2050 due to loss of habitat from human activities. We were hopeful the koala populations would not decline as additional protected areas in the Blue Mountains were being managed. However, the recent wildfires show us that climate change is going to intensify the threats facing all Australian wildlife.”
Megafires swept the Blue Mountains heritage site in 2020. This devastated protected areas and threatened the important koala populations. Major work is needed in coming years to ensure the survival of the species in to the future.
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“Almost 82 percent of the protected areas in the Blue Mountains was affected by the brushfires” said Kellie Leigh, Ph.D., executive director of Science for Wildlife and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance-supported conservationist. “Prior to the bushfires we had identified five sites as important koala habitat – four of these burned in 2020. We experienced first-hand the devastation experienced by koalas during these bushfires.” Leigh added, “During and immediately following the fires, our priority became the rescue and care of injured koalas. In an effort to conserve some of the newly uncovered koala populations, we undertook the first emergency evacuation of koalas before fire approached, taking them to Taronga Zoo as a safe haven until we could safely release them back into the wild.”
“The decline of koala populations in some of their previous strongholds in the southeast of the state (of Queensland) is particularly concerning, because this is also where some of the strongest efforts to protect their habitat have been initiated and where most public support is concentrated,” said Dr. Bill Ellis, head of the University of Queensland’s Koala Ecology Group.
“Our surveys indicate that koalas have disappeared or now only persist as isolated, low-density populations across areas of their former range along coastal and inland Queensland. Unless we protect and re-connect their habitat and support these populations, they are indeed in danger of extinction.”
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance have a tradition of working with colleagues and communities in Australia to conserve unique species like the koala.
The San Diego Zoo is one of the few places in the United States where guests can meet the koala. They maintain a strong breeding program for the species.