Koalas Are Officially ‘Functionally Extinct’

Functionally extinct is used to describe a species which has a population so low that it can no longer play a role in its ecosystem.

Koala species down under are now considered “functionally extinct” as the Australian Koala Foundation(AKF) says there are no more than 80,000 individuals left on the continent. Once a population falls below a critical point, it can no longer produce the next generation, ultimately leading to the species’ extinction.

“The AKF thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia. This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” said AKF chairman Deborah Tabart, adding that the population could be as low as 43,000.

Functionally extinct is used to describe a species which has a population so low that it can no longer play a role in its ecosystem.

It also describes a species which has no pairs left to reproduce, or a population that suffers from inbreeding, risking genetic disease.

The AKF said that, since 2010, it had monitored 128 electoral districts that fall within known koala environments.

It found 41 of those area have none left.

“The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance,” said the San Diego Zoo. “Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.”

In the past, koalas were killed for their coats — between 1919 and 1924 eight million koalas were killed. Today, koalas are threatened by domestic dogs and disease, along with increasing encroachment due to human development, logging and wood harvesting, and droughts and extreme weather associated with climate change.

Though koalas are currently protected by law, almost 80 percent of remaining habitat occurs on privately owned land with very little protection offered under the legislation. This is why the AKF is calling for the need for a Koala Protection Act (KPA).

AKF chairman Deborah Tabart said: “I’m calling on the new Prime Minister after the May election to enact the Koala Protection Act, which has been written and ready to go since 2016. The plight of the koala now falls on his shoulders.”

Ms Tabart added: “It is time for Australian forests to be protected.

“Both parties say they want to protect the environment. It would be a great way to start by protecting Koala forests which cover 20 per cent of our continent.

“I know the Australian public are concerned for the safety of Koalas and are tired of seeing dead Koalas on our roads. It is time for the Government to respect the Koala and protect its habitat.”