Decimation of koala numbers is a lesson in human failure to protect Australia’s native species

We routinely hear from the authorities in Australia that feral cats are having a terrible impact upon Australia’s native species. I have consistently said that by far the biggest impact on Australia’s native species is the impact of human activity. Here is a good example.

One relatively minor threat to koalas is the feral cat. Feral cats can prey on young koalas. But the impact by feral cats on the koala population in New South Wales is minute, indeed infinitesimal in comparison to that of human activity.

Koala populations are on the brink of collapse. Koalas could be wiped out across large parts of Australia. The reason is because of shrinking forest habitats, growing numbers killed by vehicles, bushfires and rising temperatures due to global warming. These are all as a result of human activity.

Overall the country’s koala population has fallen to about 300,000. The koala is due to become extinct in certain areas according to the World Wildlife Fund. It may be worse. An environmental spokeswoman said that koalas were on track to become extinct in New South Wales by 2055.

Human activity which is causing this dramatic fall in koala numbers include:

  • Destruction of forests for farming
  • The building of roads to service new houses in new settlements
  • Hotter summers and severe bushfires believed to be associated with climate change.

Land is being developed around the habitats of the koala which results in a heavy increase in the number being hit by vehicles and attacked by dogs. Studies tell us that more than 80% of koalas with broken bones have been hit by vehicles on the road.

Higher temperatures have reached the point were the koala can no longer tolerate the ambient temperature. The maximum that they can tolerate is about 37.7°C. In some areas Australia is experiencing temperatures well into the 40s.

The increase in the frequency and intensity of bushfires is due, it is believed, to climate change.

The koala has occupied Australia for 25 million years. They are found nowhere else. Before the current neglectful, indirect, attack by humans on koala numbers, they were slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands for the fur on their back before the late 1930s.

Humans need to look at themselves in the mirror when they talk about feral cats attacking native species in Australia. I have simply isolated one example. There are others.

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