This morning, 11/15/2019, on TODAY, we learned one of the most beloved animals on the planet is on the verge of extinction, the Koala. A native animal to the Australian landscape is rapidly declining in numbers from several preventable causes. Experts warn that the koala, an iconic symbol of Australia, could soon disappear from the wild. The situation is being made worse by massive wildfires Down Under. NBC’s Tom Costello takes TODAY behind the scenes of the fight to save wild koalas.
It is illegal in Australia for anyone to hold a koala if you aren’t a veterinarian or zookeeper. This is a measure put into place to help with the protection of the rapidly disappearing animal. Yet, almost daily, koala babies are being found on the sides of roads or in the wild due to so many mothers dying from the loss of trees that provide natural eucalyptus which is their diet. The trees are either being torn down to build new developments or have burned from disastrous wildfires. They are also often killed by wild dogs and cars. A respiratory chlamydia infection is ravishing entire colonies of koalas.
Veterinarian Lorenzo Crosta remarked they are in such danger from urban sprawls and climate change. Deborah Tabart of the Australia Koala Foundation remarked how oftentimes, the innate response to bite or scratch a caregiver emerges from their instinct to defend themselves. It is also in their nature to become attached to certain zoo workers they feel they can trust. One koala has not let go of his caregiver in 6 years.
Today there could be 80,000 wild koalas down from a peak of 20 million. Crosta says there is an indication that within 20 years we could be without koalas in the wild. Australia’s zoos are trying to breed koalas to keep up with the population, but can’t keep up with the dying. If measures aren’t taken soon, the only place we might be able to see the koalas are in zoos.
A new venture by those working to prevent this catastrophe from becoming a reality is an outreach from lovers of this sweet creature. All you need to do is write a letter to the Prime Minister and express your love and concern. Ask the Prime Minister to do any and everything to protect the koala from extinction. The University of Sydney’s Avian Hospital needs private donations and fear the clock is ticking fast.
There is an effort in Australia to create sanctuaries like we have in America for the bald eagle population that brought the eagle back.
Photo courtesy of Bing via animalfactguide.com