Australian koala population hit as wildfires rage
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As historic droughts and brushfires sweep across Australia, koala populations have been decimated, according to some reports.

Deborah Tabart, the chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, estimated that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires, and as much as 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed, Forbes reported.

The organization predicted that the Koala population was “functionally extinct” in May, when it estimated that there were fewer than 80,000 koalas left in the wild – prior to the recent casualties – the BBC reported. An animal is “functionally extinct” if it has so few pairs that it is unlikely to produce a new generation.

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They also play a shrinking role in their ecosystem, and their long-term viability as a species grows more unlikely, Forbes reported. 

Aside from the danger the koalas face directly from the fire, their main food supply, eucalyptus trees, are also unlikely to survive the flames. A fully-grown koala will eat up to two pounds of eucalyptus leaves per day. Although the trees are expected to grow back after the fire, it will leave the remaining koalas hungry for months.  

Some koala lovers are urging the Australian government to enact the Koala Protection Act, which was introduced in 2016 but never enacted. It would protect koala habitats and eucalyptus trees in addition to protecting koalas from hunting, according to Forbes.  

The Port Macquaria Koala Hospital set up a GoFundMe page for donations to help treat the injured koalas. They have already raised more than $1.3 million. The money will be used for the animals’ care and to build drinking stations in areas affected by the fire.