Koalas are marsupials (mammals that carry their young in a pouch) found only in the eastern and southern regions of mainland Australia. They have the appearance of a small bear and are usually gray and white in color with small patches of black and/or brown or their back and arms. They are known for spending almost their entire lives in eucalyptus trees where they feed on the leaves and spend most of their time sleeping. There is some debate about the conservation status of the koala and how many are left in the wild, but they are listed as vulnerable by 3 Australian state/territory governments. Let’s find out why this koala is endangered.
Why are koalas an endangered species?
The first main threat to the koala began in the early 20th century when they were almost hunted to extinction for the fur trade. Koala fur was popular in Europe and the United States at that time and it is estimated that a million koalas were killed in one Australian state alone between 1915 and 1919. The public began to protest against these killings and eventually koalas became a protected species.
The population has had a chance to recover since this time, but there are still many other threats to the koala. The largest issues that the species faces today are habitat loss and human impact (this can include things such as dog attacks and traffic accidents). Koalas require large areas of connected forest because they can travel considerable distances to find a mate. If these forests become disconnected the population may become isolated and no longer survive. Forests may become disconnected due to residential development, road building and logging. Disease is also a common problem in certain populations of koalas. The chlamydia bacteria, a different species from the one that infects humans, and a immune weakening retrovirus have been discovered in most koalas in Queensland.
Did you know?
The koala was originally called the koala bear by English settlers because of their appearance. It was later discovered that the koala is not related to bears, but this name is still incorrectly used in some circumstances.