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Koalas Are Now 'Functionally Extinct' According To Researchers

Amy Pilkington 15 May 2019

It seems like every time we think we might have a handle on how many species there are on the planet, we discover more. Which is absolutely awesome.

A low estimate of the number of species on Earth is about 2 million. Higher estimates reach to around 100 million species.

With that many species, it's not really a surprise to hear that some go extinct every year.

WWF

We can argue until the human race dies out about whether or not we're to blame for all of those extinctions, but in some cases, the cause and effect is pretty clear.

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The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) recently announced that the koala has joined the rank of animals who are "functionally extinct."

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This means that while there are still a large number alive (about 80,000), those koalas are unlikely to produce a viable next generation of the species due to a lack of breeding pairs.

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Since 2010, the AKF has monitored the population of koalas in all federal electorates within the marsupial's habitat.

Australian Koala Foundation

They chose to use the electorates for stats because it would show each member of the country's Parliament exactly how the animal was fairing in their home base.

The hope is to get a bill passed to protect the remaining koalas from business practices that continue to threaten their habitats.

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While some other population studies have resulted in a different total number, they all agree that the population is steeply declining.

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They're currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but the last update was in 2014.

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The most common cause of koala deaths has been deforestation and climate.

Unsplash | Jordan Whitt

Thousands died last year of dehydration during one particularly intense heatwave.

The AKF is calling for the Australian government to institute protections for the animals' habitat and prevent further deforestation.

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If they do die out, Australia will lose a part of their ecosystem that goes back millennia.

Giphy

There are fossil records as far back as 30 million years that prove the marsupial has been around for a long, long time.

It would be a shame to lose them now, when there are still things we could do to help them.

h/t: Unilad

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