Koalas are “functionally extinct” in their native Australia, it has been declared.
The Australian Koala Foundation’s chairman Deborah Tabart says there are no more than 80,000 koalas in the country and, while this might seem like a lot, there are not enough breeding adults to support the next generation.
She said the number was a fraction of the eight million koalas shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927.
“Functionally extinct” is a scientific term to describe the species as being “beyond the point of recovery”.
Rising temperatures and heatwaves causing deforestation have combined with the appetite of various industries and urbanisation to cut down the number of koala habitats.
Activists worry that it would only take a new disease to kill off the remaining koalas.
Ms Tabart said: “I have heard every excuse under the sun to not step in and protect habitats.
“No one has written anything [any laws] to protect the koala in the last six years of government.”
She called on Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison to take up the koalas’ cause, saying: “The plight of the koala now falls on his shoulders.”
Australia is just days away from an election and activists say the next prime minister should enact the Koala Protection Act, rescuing the animals like Americans rescued the bald eagle from the brink of extinction.
Ms Tabart said: “The Bald Eagle Act was successful because there was political motive to ensure their icon did not go extinct. It is time for the koala to be afforded the same respect.”
She added: “The prime minister who takes the reins in the coming weeks will have to really start to understand that Mother Nature has seemed to have enough.
“Fire, flood or drought, deforestation, hotter climate and other huge impacts on our environment need to be halted.
“The koala forests of Australia are 20% of our continent – they could help with cooling our planet and making our lives more sustainable.”