"Most animals decline towards extinction," an ecology professor in Australia said, "they don't go for a single reason." That fits the koala's predicament; a host of factors have combined to shrink its population. Most of the koalas' natural habitats in Australia have been cleared and split up by roads and development. "Then you’ve got a lot of genetic problems and diseases, and then the ones that survive that get taken out by dogs and hit by cars," Corey Bradshaw said. "Add bushfires, and there's not a lot of long-term hope for that species in particular." New data reflect that, News.com.au reports.
The koala population has dropped 30% over the past three years, the Australian Koala Foundation's numbers show. The organization says there were 46,000 to 82,000 koalas in the wild three years ago and 32,000 to 58,000 now. The government's numbers are higher, but the foundation says its figures are more accurate. "I've counted the dead bodies of koalas in Queensland," the organization's chair said. "Over seven years there's been something like 20,000 of them." Conservation groups want the koala listed as endangered; the government now calls it vulnerable, per ABC.net.au.
The 2019 bushfires are estimated to have killed 3 billion animals, including 60,000 koalas. Climate change is making their situation worse, Bradshaw said. "It's the frequency of extreme events that become the problem," he said. "It didn't give time for fragile wildlife to recover." The foundation wants to plant vegetation to reconnect sections of habitat with only small gaps between them. "Humans could walk under this trail of gum trees with koalas happily in the branches overhead," said the group's chair, Deborah Tabart. She hasn't given up on a future for the koala population—"as long as we get on with it." (Read more koala stories.)