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Animal welfare groups calls for koala population to be reclassified as endangered

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-05 14:28
An injured koala sits at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, at the Wildlife Emergency Response Centre in Parndana, Kangaroo Island, Australia, January 19, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

SYDNEY - In the wake of Australia's recent bushfire crisis, a new scientific study is calling for one of the country's most beloved animals -- the koala -- to officially be reclassified as endangered.

Examining a period of 15 weeks from Oct 1, 2019 to Jan 10, 2020, the report commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and prepared by the research group Biolink, conservatively estimated that around 5,000 koalas, or 12 percent of the population in New South Wales (NSW) State were killed as a direct result of the bushfires.

But while some koalas may have escaped the flames, IFAW wildlife campaigner Josey Sharrad told the Australian Associated Press on Thursday, the figures do not include the ongoing losses which are expected due to habitat destruction.

"The surviving koalas have nowhere to go," she said. "We want them to have breathing space to recover because they've been hit so hard."

"The prolonged drought, excess land clearing, habitat loss and now the fires - it's hit at the heart of so many significant koala populations."

With more research to be completed covering the period to Feb 10, 2020, the report found that the iconic marsupials are facing "serious challenges" when it comes to their long-term survival.

As well as low reproductive rates and loss of habitat through development, the ongoing threat posed by bushfires and climate change puts the specie's future at significant risk.

"The consequence of more frequent fires is that remaining koala populations are simply not able to recover from one fire event before being subjected to another," Sharrad said. "These fires have been a game changer."

"Everything needs to be re-thought. They're literally fighting for their survival."

In response, the NSW state government is reported to be considering an emergency endangered species listing, meaning there will be greater funding for conservation available and increased restrictions on land clearing near koala habitat.

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