They are in danger of going the way of the dodo.
Koala bears have been declared “functionally extinct,” the Australian Koala Foundation reports. The fluffy marsupial is down to just 80,000 wild species members, meaning there aren’t enough breeding adults left to support another generation of the pouched mammals.
The tree-dwelling species has been ravaged by the effects of rising temperatures and heat waves, which have caused widespread deforestation and fatal dehydration in koalas, according to the AKF. Only 41 of the koala’s 128 known habitats in federal environments have any of the animals left.
If a new disease or genetic pathogen of any kind is introduced, surviving koalas will die off rapidly. Activists are begging local pols to step in.
“I know the Australian public are concerned for the safety of koalas and are tired of seeing dead koalas on our roads,” says AKF chairman Deborah Tabart. “I am calling on the new prime minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act (KPA) which has been written and ready to go since 2016.”
There is hope: The Koala Protection Act is based on the US’s Bald Eagle Act, which was successful in rescuing America’s national symbol from the threatened species list.
“The Bald Eagle Act was successful because there was a political motive to ensure their icon did not go extinct,” says Tabart. “It is time for the koala to be afforded the same respect.”