The Koala Crisis in Australia

Courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Veronica Preaskorn, Staff Writer

As the Australian bushfires continue to burn, they prove a threat to koalas and other animals. Many marsupials tend to run from fires, but koalas climb higher into the canopy of the trees. They have evolved to coexist with the fires, but this year fire is resulting in a higher amount of koala fatalities than usual. The problem worsens with the fact that their habitats are the only place to find eucalyptus, the only food koalas will eat. While the flames eat away at these plants, wild koalas are losing their food source. 

The Koala Hospital of Port Macquarie estimates that hundreds of koalas have been reduced to ashes as a result of the fires. Their habitats and populations are being affected by human development as well. While buildings encroach on their environment, they are losing the ability to live despite the fires. Faced with other diseases, the koala’s ability to stay alive is decreasing. 

National Geographic stated that koalas “are considered vulnerable to extinction- just a step above endangered.” However, this may change soon due not only to the fires but also the fact that many koalas carry koala retrovirus, more often referred to as KIDS (koala AIDS), chlamydia, or both. These diseases affect the koalas’ immune systems and open them up to more serious and sometimes fatal diseases. Australian scientists claim to have found a way to understand koalas’ immune systems and eventually find a cure for KIDS and other STDs in koalas. 

The Koala Hospital of Port Macquarie has reported the treatment of twenty-two adult koalas and one joey so far but are also busy treating other injured marsupials. Other steps are being taken to prevent koalas from becoming endangered such as laws preventing the hunting of koalas and talk of rehabilitation programs for them. If these prevention methods don’t work, a series of ecological disasters could potentially occur, including an excess of eucalyptus; however, it’s impossible to predict all of the effects, which is another reason extinction is so serious.