Not many people realise how vulnerable and fragile koala populations already are. A grim reminder –
Koala species down under are now considered “functionally extinct” as the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) says there are no more than 80,000 individuals left on the continent. Once a population falls below a critical point, it can no longer produce the next generation, ultimately leading to the species’ extinction.”
The AKF thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia. This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” said AKF chairman Deborah Tabart, adding that the population could be as low as 43,000.
The organization has been monitoring koala populations in 128 of Australia’s electorates for nearly a decade. Since then, 41 have seen the marsupials go extinct. However, the AKF estimate is much lower than other population predictions, albeit outdated ones. For example, the International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species lists koalas as “vulnerable” with decreasing numbers, estimating in 2014 that there are between 100,000 and 500,000 mature individuals left in the wild.
So what does functionally extinct mean? The Conversation reports it means that koala populations have declined so far that the species no longer plays a significant role in its ecosystem.