Story at a glance
- The Australian government will spend $50 million to ramp up protections for koalas.
- Research suggests there’s been a 30 percent decline in Australia’s koala population since 2018.
- The new investment will be spent over the next four years, with $20 million going toward habitat and health protection projects.
Koalas are known as the cute and furry creatures native to Australia, but the species has struggled to maintain its population. Now the Australian government is stepping in to help, announcing a record $50 million investment in the long-term protection and recovery efforts for the region’s koalas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the $50 million investment would enhance the protection of koalas by restoring their habitats, supporting training in koala treatment and care and strengthening research into koala health outcomes.
The money will be spent over the next four years, with $20 million allocated for habitat and health protection projects, $10 million toward community-led initiatives, another $10 million to the National Koala Monitoring Program, $2 million to improve koala health outcomes and $1 million for koala care, treatment and triage.
“Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and best recognised icons, both here at home and across the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come,” said Morrison in a statement.
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In 2012, the Australian government declared the koala as “vulnerable” under its Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). Koalas are considered to be in “serious decline suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, bushfires and road accidents,” according to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF).
However, research conducted by AKF suggests that koala’s conservation status should be upgraded to “critically endangered.” Dubbed Bob’s Map, the foundation analyzed 28 years of research and found that since 2018 there has been an estimated 30 percent decline in koalas across Australia, with an estimated population between 32,065 to 57,920.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also found that Australia’s 2019-20 bushfires killed, injured or affected in some way more than 60,000 koalas.
AKF says habitat loss is the greatest threat to koalas, with land clearing, bushfires and diseases of the eucalyptus all contributing.
The Australian government’s investment in koalas may help increase the specie’s numbers, as the prime minister’s office noted its $50 million initiative would bring his administration’s koala investment to more than $74 million since 2019.
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