The devastating fires of 2019-20 decimated marsupial populations in some Australian coastal regions.
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They suffer the consequences of bush fires, clearings, drought and disease. Koalas across much of Australia’s eastern seaboard are officially classed Friday, February 11, as being “in danger”. Environment Minister Sussan Ley made the move to provide them with a higher level of protection in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.
The koala, a worldwide symbol of Australia’s unique ecosystem, had been classified as “vulnerable” on the east coast about ten years ago. Conservationists say the koala population has crashed across much of eastern Australia over the past two decades and the animal is on the verge of extinction in those areas. While they welcomed the minister’s announcement, they also condemned the authorities’ failure to protect the species so far. For Alexia Wellbelove, of the Humane Society International, koalas on the east coast could disappear by 2050 if nothing is done.
“We are taking unprecedented action to protect the koala”assured Susan Ley. The minister has highlighted the government’s recent pledge to spend 50 million Australian dollars (31 million euros) to protect and restore koala habitats. The Scientific Committee for Endangered Species, an independent government agency, estimated that the koala population had increased from 185,000 in 2001 to 92,000 in 2021.