People were devastated when they heard that koalas in Australia had become ‘functionally extinct’.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there are as little as 80,000 koalas remaining in the wild, which means they are unlikely to be able to produce the next generation.
Basically, ‘functionally extinct’ means that a population of animals is so small that it no longer effects its environment, has no pairs left that can breed, or can still breed but has no chance of avoiding genetic disease because there are so few of them.
There’s a big problem that exists in the koala world and it’s something that humans experience from time to time: rampant chlamydia outbreaks.
The STI causes blindness, female infertility and death, which certainly aren’t markers you want when you’re trying to rebuild your population.
But it seems as though researchers might have found the last remaining group of koalas that are untouched by the STI.
Scientists found about 75 of the animals in the Mount Lofty ranges just outside of Adelaide and 170 on Kangaroo Island, which is just off the coast of South Australia.
In the first group, researchers found nearly half of the Mount Lofty koalas had chlamydia, however the isolated ones had no sign of the infection.
Being kept on an island with no prospect of getting off seems to have done wonders for these creatures.
South Australian Department for Environment and Water spokesperson Brenton Grear said: “Future-proofing South Australia’s koala health is paramount to ensuring the survival of the species in Australia, given the marked decline in the eastern states.”
In the meantime, scientists are working on a cure for chlamydia to protect them from the STI.
It will certainly be a boom for the species if they can get their functionally extinct status lifted.
The Australian Koala Foundation has been monitoring 128 federal electorates in Australia since 2010 that were known to be within koala-friendly environments, but now there are 41 of those areas that have no koalas left.
A study of koalas back in 2016 found that there were between 144,000 and 600,000 koalas left in the wild. That’s a big drop in a short space of time given that there were several million less than 100 years ago.
Between the late 1800s and 1927 it is thought that more than eight million dead koalas were shipped over to the UK as a result of the fur trade.