Koalas are facing the so-called ‘functional extinction’ after large-scale bushfires in Australia have destroyed about 3/4 of their habitat. The term refers to a situation when there are so few couples left in the population that further reproduction becomes almost impossible since there are not enough young animals for that.
Deborah Tabart, the head of the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF), which is sounding the alarm, said more than 1,000 animals had died in the bushfires.
However, some researchers have questioned the sad forecast saying that the total population is difficult to measure and in fact, there may be much more individuals in Australia than believed by the AKF.
Bushfires and deforestation destroy the main nutrient source of koalas — eucalyptus trees. An adult koala eats up to a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day. The restoration of eucalyptus trees after the fire will take months and surviving koalas will starve to death.
Many are calling on the Australian government to pass the Koala Protection Act, written in 2016 but never enacted. Recent viral videos of koalas being rescued by Australians have led to an increase in donations to support hospitalization and help for burned koalas.
A hospital in Port Macquarie has set up an online Go Fund Me page to collect donations that will be used to treat animals. To date, $1.33 million has been raised, far exceeding the original goal of $25,000. Some of the funds will be used to install drinking stations for koalas in areas destroyed by the fires.