Thursday, February 16, 2012

Australia's koalas under threat

Photo caption: A koala is trapped in a tarpaulin after being rescued from a bushfire in Australia. Bushfires are forecast to become more prevalent in the country due to climate change.

CNN reports: The Australian government has angered koala conservationists by again delaying a decision on whether to add the national icon to the country's endangered species list.

Last year, a Senate inquiry into the status, health and sustainability of Australia's koala population heard that there could be as few as 43,000 koalas left in the country.

Millions have been killed since the arrival of European settlers in the 18th century. Numbers were slashed again during open hunting seasons in the early 20th century and in recent decades tens of thousands have died as a result of habitat destruction, disease -- including Chlamydia and retrovirus -- and dog attacks.

On average, four koalas are admitted every week to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, the country's largest wildlife hospital, after being hit by cars. The animals are also vulnerable to bushfires and drought.

However, environment minister Tony Burke says he needs 10 more weeks to consider new information from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) on where the marsupial is under the greatest threat. It's the second time he's delayed the decision, which was initially due in October.

However, environment minister Tony Burke says he needs 10 more weeks to consider new information from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) on where the marsupial is under the greatest threat. It's the second time he's delayed the decision, which was initially due in October.

"I can't provide a blanket threatened species listing across Australia when there are many places where koala numbers remain high," he said in a statement.

Currently, koalas are listed as "vulnerable" under state legislation in Queensland and New South Wales, and as "rare" in South Australia. However, they are currently not granted any extra protection under federal law. Campaigners say a national listing is necessary because state governments have clearly failed to stop population declines.

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