Australia Lists Koala As Threatened Species for First Time

The Australian government has added the koala to the list of threatened species in parts of the country for the first time, saying the iconic species is under threat from habitat loss, urban expansion, disease, and climate change. Following a three-year study, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that koalas will be listed as vulnerable in Queensland, where populations have declined by 40 percent in two decades; New South Wales, where numbers have dropped by one-third; and the Australian Capital Territory. In addition to the listing, which will impose restrictions on development in areas where the species is threatened, the government committed $300,000 for koala monitoring and habitat research. Not only are koalas facing declining food sources as eucalypt plants are aggressively cleared for development, but scientists say the nutritional value of remaining eucalypts has diminished as a result of climate change. While the government says there are about 200,000 remaining koalas nationwide, the Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are likely fewer than 100,000.