Fires in Australia devastate koala habitats

Starr Asuncion, News

Australia faces record-breaking droughts and bushfires which have destroyed 80 percent of koalas’ natural habitat, leaving the marsupials functionally extinct, according to the Australian Koala Foundation. 

The bush fires, which have been raging since August, have burned through many parts of Australia, reached Port Macquarie in November, and ravaged the diverse koala population. Estimates say that 1,000 koalas have been killed, according to the AKF.

“Approximately 75% of the fireground footprint being prime koala habitat,” Port Macquarie Koala Hospital said. 

The fires are fueled by soaring temperatures, strong wind currents, and the worst drought seen in decades.

“I think that the bigger picture and the main point of this is global warming and climate change, not the koalas.” Kevin Kamehiro (11) added. “The koalas dying is an issue, too, but this is one more example of how climate change is affecting the earth, and more species could go extinct like the koalas did.”

But these fires are just another devastating blow to the koala population. Deforestation and poaching have also played a role in the dwindling number of koalas.

“We believe the wild population of koalas is critically threatened and in need of our protection,” the Australia Zoo said.

When a population becomes functionally extinct it means it no longer plays a role in the ecosystem and the species is no longer viable. Limited koala numbers make long-term viability highly unlikely.

“More people should be made aware of the fires and the extinction of koalas so we could help do something to help Australia and the koalas,” Nicolas Onishi (10) said.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has set up a GoFundMe page seeking donations from the public for hospital treatments for the burned and injured koalas. As of November 24, 2019 they have raised much more than their $25,000 goal, with an ever-growing $1.33 million coming from over 30,000 donors.