Catastrophic bushfires: Australia may list koalas as 'endangered'
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said Australia's koala population has taken an "extraordinary hit" in the ongoing bushfires and could be listed as "endangered".
In the wake of devastating bushfires in Australia, the country's government said on Monday that it could declare koalas as an "endangered" species after their population suffered "extraordinary hit" in the crisis, which destroyed 30 per cent of their habitat across the country.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), over 1.25 billion animals are believed to be dead in infernos and experts believe that hundreds of billions of insects may have been wiped out.
With desperate animals on the run from bushfires across parts of eastern Australia and South Australia, videos have emerged of koalas drinking water from passers-by and firefighters.
Heartbreaking that these sweet, innocent koalas and other fur babies are suffering. Poignant moment of love and kindness, as this koala grasps the hand of a rescuer.????#AustralianBushfiresDisaster pic.twitter.com/j9sk27zJ67— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) January 12, 2020
The 2019-20 bushfire season has been the worst in its history. The fires have claimed 27 lives, burned over 10 million hectares of land, destroyed over 2,000 homes and pushed many species towards extinction.
The government has established a 50-million Australian dollar emergency fund to address the devastating loss of wildlife.
Announcing the funding commitment, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said Australia's koala population has taken an "extraordinary hit" in the ongoing bushfires and could be listed as "endangered".
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee will need to assess whether koalas have moved from a 'vulnerable' listing to being 'endangered' in some parts of the country, she said.
According to WWF, around 8,400 koalas have been killed in New South Wales (NSW) alone and with water already scarce in those affected regions, surviving koalas are struggling to find water.
With 30 per cent of their habitat already been destroyed in the devastating bushfires, koalas -- the herbivorous marsupial animal native to Australia -- have become a big focus for the Australian government.
"We know that our native flora and fauna have been very badly damaged. It will be some time before we know what that means for their numbers (and) koalas will be a big area of focus for us," said the Environment Minister.
"It may be necessary...to see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered," she said.
Meanwhile, over 4000 people have signed a petition calling for koalas to be introduced to New Zealand in the wake of the devastating wildfires. Experts, however, say there are other ways to support the stricken species.
Signatories to the petition said koalas were cute and bringing them over to New Zealand would help save them from further population reduction.
But not everyone is a fan, with one Twitter user pointing out other introduced species from Australia have caused havoc for New Zealand wildlife.
Don't get me wrong I am as sad for koalas as the next person. But are we sure that releasing a marsupial into a country with traditionally almost no mammals is a good idea. If only we had some cautionary tale to go off... pic.twitter.com/ZSTEJDHRjd— Taylor Davies-Colley (@tdaviescolley) January 10, 2020