Koalas Extinct in 30 Years as Climate Change, Habitat Loss, Sexually Transmitted Disease Take Their Toll

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New figures from the Australian Koala Foundation paint a dark picture for the future of the iconic marsupial. Just completed research shows that the current koala population is somewhere between 43,000-80,000 individuals, a decline from an estimated 100,000 in 2003, and without better conservation efforts they could all be extinct within 30 years:The main threat to koalas is two-fold: Habitat loss due to development -- as the AKF says about koalas 'no tree, no me' -- and malnutrition. Furthermore, large numbers have been killed by outbreaks of chlamydia. (Yes, who knew?...)

Eucalyptus Leaves Less Nutritious Than Before
AKF chief Deborah Tabart says that it really seems that climate change is already affecting koalas. Recent hotter, drier conditions are reducing the nutritional value of eucalyptus leaves, leading to fatal malnutrition.

Koalas Missing Everywhere We Looked
Tabart summed it up:

The koalas are missing everywhere we look. The population in New South Wales has absolutely plummeted (5,435-8,800); the Queensland koala population (18,380-35,980) -- which was traditionally a stronghold population -- is showing a huge decline from irresponsible development; and in the west declines are clearly due to climate change.

AKF hopes these latest figures will sway Australia's Threatened Species Steering Committee to list the koala as threatened, though a decision on that is not likely until mid-2010, according to the BBC.