What does it mean that Koalas are functionally extinct?

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The representative species of Australia was declared functionally extinct by the Australian Koala Foundation

What does it mean that Koalas are functionally extinct?

According to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF), there are only 80,000 koalas left in the entire Australian territory, a figure that makes the species functionally extinct and at risk of disappearing. But what does that term mean? This qualification can mean two things, according to Nat Geo.

Leer en español: ¿Qué significa que el Koala esté funcionalmente extinto?

On the one hand, "functionally extinct" refers to the fact that the species has reached a point where it no longer plays an important role in the ecosystem in which it lives. On the other hand, the term implies that the population of the species has been reduced so much that it begins to suffer from inbreeding. That is, the remaining specimens are so genetically close that they can affect reproduction in the long term.

In the case of the Koala, the species would fulfill the two options because there is a small number of specimens which means that they are reproducing inbreeding and that their ecosystemic function has decreased significantly. Faced with this worrying situation, the NGO has called for the establishment of a law of protection for these marsupials, as well as the eucalyptus forests in which the animals live. In the statement issued by AKF, it is ensured that these ecosystems cover 20% of the Australian territory.

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AKF also assures that the current number of specimens is equivalent to 1% "of the eight million koalas that were killed by their skin and sent to London between 1890 and 1927". The figures are alarming because, according to the same statement, of the 128 electoral states where koalas live, the species has already disappeared in 41. By means of a tweet, AKF denounces that the existing legislation allows for a "license to kill" koalas.

What are the main threats against the koala?

Loss of habitat: deforestation has caused the number of eucalyptus forests in which the koala lives to decrease. In addition to being your home, this animal feeds on the leaves of this tree. The koalas fulfill a transcendental role at the ecosystem level since "their excrements contribute to the important recycling of nutrients", explains Nat Geo.

Climate change: the increase in global temperatures affects the functioning of ecosystems as it changes natural conditions and hinders the survival of species of flora and fauna.


LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza

Translated from "¿Qué significa que el koala está funcionalmente extinto?"