Nearly one third of Australia’s koala population has been lost in three years

The decline is thought to have been caused by bushfires as well as drought and heat waves

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 21 September 2021 17:30 BST
<p>Koala populations are on the decline in Australia, according to a charity</p>

Koala populations are on the decline in Australia, according to a charity

Australia has lost nearly a third of its koala population over the last three years, according to new figures.

Droughts, heatwaves and bushfires have all contributed to the decline, the Australian Koala Foundation said.

The charity has estimated there are no more than 58,000 koalas in the country.

This is a drop of 30 per cent from 80,000 in 2018.

The worst drop in numbers was in the state of New South Wales - which was badly hit by wildfires in late 2019 and early 2020 - where the population has shrunk by more than 40 per cent.

The Australian Koala Foundation said every region across Australia saw a fall in koala numbers over the past three years.

Only one area in the study was estimated to have more than 5,000 koalas, and some regions were estimated to have as few as five or 10.

The Australian Koala Foundation said the figures showed a “disturbing trend”.

Deborah Tabar, the non-profit group’s chair, said: “The terrible bushfires of 2019-20 of course contributed to this outcome, however, they are certainly not the only reason we are seeing Koala populations on the decline.”

She added: “We have witnessed a drastic decrease in inland populations because of drought, heat waves, and lack of water for Koalas to drink.

“I have seen some landscapes that look like the moon – with dead and dying trees everywhere.”

Besides the impact of drought and fires, land clearing by property developers and road builders has destroyed the marsupial’s habitat.

“I think everyone gets it, we’ve got to change. But if those bulldozers keep working, then I really fear for the koalas,” Ms Tabart said.

She called for Australia to adopt a koala protection law.

Earlier this year, the Australian government said it was considering listing koalas on its east coast as endangered.

Haunting images of koalas and accounts of injured or killed animals emerged from Australia’s wildfires between late 2019 and early 2020.

Experts estimated over one billion animals in total were killed in blazes which ravaged Australia during this period.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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