Koalas are among the world’s most popular and loved animals. Unfortunately, their number has been decreasing every year. Today, scientists think that there are less than 100,000 koalas left in the wild. In February 2022, the Australian government announced that the koala is now endangered in eastern Australia.
Koalas can be found in forests on the southeast and eastern sides of Australia. They live on eucalyptus trees and all they eat are these trees’ leaves. They eat up to one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves a day. As these contain enough moisture, koalas don’t need to drink much water throughout the day. Indeed, the word ‘koala’ means ‘no drink’ in the Australian Aboriginal language.
Why are Koalas Listed as Endangered Species?
There are several reasons why koalas are considered an endangered species.
First of all, they are losing their homes through deforestation. In Australia, humans clear a massive amount of forests every year to make space for farming. Scientists think that at least 50 million trees are cut down or damaged in Australia every year! When so many trees disappear, koalas no longer have a place to live or food to eat. They spend more time on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to attacks from other animals.
To make things worse, bushfires in Australia also destroy a large area of forests every year. In 2019, the bushfires were so serious that they burned more than 185,000 square kilometres, an area that is almost twice the size of Iceland. Almost 3 million animals were harmed or killed, including more than 60,000 koalas. Although most bushfires occur naturally, climate change can intensify them and make them last longer.
Another threat to koalas is a disease called chlamydia. It can be very painful and cause blindness and it is currently a difficult disease to treat. In the past, scientists tried treating koalas with antibiotics. However, the medicine made it hard for them to digest their food. Some of them even starved to death! Fortunately, scientists are not given up and they are working on new vaccines to treat this terrible disease and save koalas.
What Can We Do to Save Koalas?
As koalas become endangered, we need to do more to protect them. We can push governments to pass laws to protect koalas, we can educate others on the importance of safeguarding this animal and we can take care of our forests, the precious home of koalas.
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