Koalas Are Now “Functionally Extinct,” Experts Say

May 14, 2019 at 5:45 pm

The Australian Koala Foundation announces Koalas are now functionally extinct due to deforestation

A report released by the Australian Koala Foundation says koala bears are now “functionally extinct,” which means their population has fallen below the point at which they can produce another generation of viable offspring.

There are no more than 80,000 of them left in the wild, according to the organization.

That’s down from 330,000 just three years ago.

The sharp decline is in most part due to habitat loss (deforestation of eucalyptus trees) and climate change (severe droughts and heat waves in recent years).

Koalas are are “highly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change,” The Conversation reports.

While a population of 80,000 might sound like a lot, experts have many reasons for labeling a species “functionally extinct,” including:

1. The point at which a species’ population has declined so much it can no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem.

2. A population that is no longer viable due to habitat loss.

3. A small population that, although still breeding, is suffering from inbreeding that can threaten its future viability.

With eucalyptus forests in rapid decline and studies showing the lack of genetic diversity, koala bears fit all three bills.