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News > Science and Tech

WWF: Deforestation Puts Koalas at Risk For Extinction By 2050

  • A koala sits in a tree at the Sydney Zoo, Australia, Apr. 3, 2014.

    A koala sits in a tree at the Sydney Zoo, Australia, Apr. 3, 2014. | Photo: EFE file

Published 16 February 2019

Australia’s east coast deforestation is threatening the survival of koalas and other native species.

The president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Pavan Sukhdev, warned of the danger of extinction of koalas and compared the destruction of the Australian east coast forests with the environmental depredation observed in Borneo, Indonesia and the Amazon.

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"The demise of orangutans has come to represent the destruction of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra. People around the world are drawing parallels to the koala, which is also heading towards extinction because of rampant deforestation," Sukhdev said in an open letter addressed to Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

According to WWF data, Australia has the world's highest mammal extinction rates. In New South Wales, for instance, the population of koalas has declined by 33% in the last twenty years due to the felling of trees.

If high land-clearing rates continue in this Australian region, this species is on track to be extinct by 2050.

Currently, there are only about 20,000 specimens of the species left, WWF points out in the letter, which was also addressed to Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales.

Sukhdev also raised concern over the massive death, this year, of fish in the Murray and Darling river basin, as a result of excessive water extraction.

In addition, the WWF president recalled the phenomenon of the discoloration of the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world's largest coral system, that could disappear due to agricultural activity.

"Koalas need forests, which also produce rain and store carbon; Murray River cod and neighboring communities need water. We must transform energy systems, from coal to renewable energies, to cool the Great Barrier Reef and reduce extreme meteorological phenomena," Sukhdev said.

The Australian Government responded to the warning made by the WWF stating that “[it] is currently leading the development of a national recovery plan for the listed koala in collaboration with the relevant range states,” according to a report by SBS News, which added that a draft for the koala recovery plan will be released for public consultation in mid-2019.

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