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Koalas as Endangered Species: Australia

  • 14 Feb 2022
  • 3 min read

Why in News?

Recently, Australia has officially classified koalas as ‘endangered’.

Why classified as Endangered and its Significance?

  • Classification as Endangered:
    • Australia’s Koala population has been on the road to extinction for over two decades now. The number of Koalas in NSW (New South Wales) declined by between 33% and 61% since 2001.
    • But despite several demands by animal rights groups and conservationists, the government has been accused of doing little to protect the species. Koalas were classified as “vulnerable” only in 2012.
    • During the catastrophic 2019 bushfires in Australia, now known as the ‘Black Summer’, an estimated 60,000 koalas were impacted, with vast swathes of their habitat being blackened and rendered unliveable.
    • Another major threat is the spread of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease known to cause blindness and cysts in the koalas reproductive tract.
  • Significance:
    • The Endangered status of the koala means they and their forest homes should be provided with greater protection under Australia’s national environmental law.

What are the Key Things about Koalas?

  • About: 
    • Koala is (Phascolarctos cinereus) an arboreal (lives in trees) marsupial.
      • A marsupial is born in a very incomplete state. They are minute, hairless and with hind limbs only partially formed. Around 2/3rd of them live in Australia. The other third live mostly in South America.
      • Instead of the placenta, the mother’s milk nourishes the young and allows it to grow and develop.
    • They share a number of characteristics with wombats, who are their closest living relatives, including a backward-facing pouch.
  • Habitat:
    • The typical habitat for Koalas is open eucalypt woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. In terms of societal behavior, Koalas are asocial animals and typically emotional bonding is seen only between mothers and dependent offspring.
    • They are endemic to Australia.
    • Due to the low nutrient levels of the Eucalyptus leaves they feed on, the koala can sleep up to 18 hours each day.
  • IUCN status:
    • Vulnerable
  • Threats:
    • Habitat destruction, climate change & severe weather (Droughts, extreme temperatures).

Source: IE

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