This teddy bear-like mammal is the biggest surviving marsupial in the world. The International Union for the Conservation of Natural Resources has listed the koala as a critically endangered species since 1996.
While it remains protected in some countries, especially Australia, it’s being hunted at alarming rates in others, where it’s viewed as vermin because it eats farmers’ crops and trees. Here are some reasons why scientists are alarmed about the future of this precious animal on our planet.
The Eastern Forests in Australia provide important habitat for Eastern Grey Koalas because this region is one of the few areas with untouched natural forests and a reasonable koala population density. However, many other factors contribute to their endangered status, including human-induced changes to the land, such as logging and development. Another key factor is drought conditions and wildfires that have been attributed to climate change.
Koalas eat mostly eucalyptus leaves that are high in fiber and low in nutritional value. Since their diet does not provide enough nutrients, they eat up to 18 hours a day. Scientists also believe that eucalyptus leaves have toxic substances that prevent koalas from digesting other foods, leading to malnutrition, ulcers, and gastrointestinal disorders. In addition, deforestation and wildfires are destroying their habitat, which greatly increases their precarity.
Destruction of natural habitat poses the greatest risk to koala populations. Much of this land clearing and development happens in coastal regions, where forest trees are harvested for timber. Poachers also kill about 5000-6000 koalas yearly for their fur, bringing in up to $100 per animal.
This infographic provides additional information on the dangers facing our fuzzy friends. As you’ll see, they will face extinction if we don’t take action soon.
Koala populations have taken a sharp nosedive in recent years and are now listed as critically endangered by The IUCN Red List. If you want to help protect koalas, there are several things you can do.
- Do not feed koalas scraps from your picnic meal. They may not be able to process it well and could become malnourished. Instead, you should only give them fresh eucalyptus leaves or pellets designed for koalas. If you come across a koala that appears to be hungry or wounded, you can call your local zoo or a wildlife rescue center for help.
- Never pick up a wild koala, even if it looks weak or injured. Instead, it’s best to call animal control services so that they can safely relocate the animal to its native habitat, where it will be better equipped to survive on its own. *Avoid using fertilizers or pesticides near areas where koalas live. These chemicals could seep into their fur and harm their sensitive digestive system.
- Report sightings of dead or injured koalas to conservation authorities immediately because these animals usually suffer injuries caused by humans (such as car accidents).
- Take pictures of any unusual behaviors exhibited by koalas (like eating unusual objects) and send them to ecologists to study the problem more closely.