As Koala Populations Plummet, A Fight Unfolds Over Endangered Species Protection


Photo: Lip Kee under a Creative Commons license.

Australia's koalas are in trouble. Since 2003, populations have fallen 20%, leaving the total number of animals somewhere between 43,000 and 80,000. One of Australia's most emblematic animals, koalas are chiefly threatened by three factors: climate change, sexually transmitted diseases, and habitat loss. Things are looking so bad, some estimate that the animal will be extinct by the year 2040.

But now, scientists at the Australian Koala Foundation are mounting an effort to list the koala as an endangered species, and to thwart the animals' doom.In February, the organization's CEO, Deborah Tabart submitted a petition (read it here) to the Australian Senate to consider listing koalas under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Doing so would make conservation efforts much easier: koala habitats would be protected and funds for research made available.

But the proposal is not without opposition. Property developers in Queensland, where koalas are especially threatened, argue that protecting the koalas (and their habitats) would add prohibitive costs to their businesses, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Ultimately, the decision is up to federal Sustainability Minister, Tony Burke, who will make a decision based on findings from the Senate committee to which Tabart submitted her petition, reported The Independent.

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