B1 Intermediate AU 217 Folder Collection
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You know when people think about climate change a wildlife, they probably think
about polar bears and maybe the Great Barrier Reef. Well, we can add koalas to
them now.
"As many as 3 percent of the country's New South Wales region may have
been killed as fires continue to ravage and destroy their habitat."
The reality is
that these flies are not normal. We're in a war zone. So I know that there's
there's been you know loss of human life definitely loss of property here but
what impact has this fire had, this fire season had, on wildlife in Australia?
Well over 1 billion animals are thought to have died or will soon die in the
weeks, the months ahead, because of the current fires. That's 1 billion. And we've
never had a toll like that on our wildlife but it seems that every few
days, the statistics get worse. I don't know where it will end by the end of this
fire season.
Are there specific species that are particularly being hard hit by this?
Many many animals cannot flee these big fires. Either they can't fly, they can't
move quickly, they can't burrow — they burn to death. Particularly because Australia has
bulldozed half of our forests, it's hard for wildlife to flee somewhere else and
that's why you find a lot of animals — including koalas — are wandering into
people's backyards into the streets looking for some habitat to survive in.
When they panic, they climb up a tree. That works when the fires low down.
But it's almost a death sentence when the fire consumes its crown fire, the canopy
fire. People have talked about flames up to 200 feet in the air. That's 70
meters. I mean that is — our trees generally don't grow that big. So any
wildlife, birds, or lizards that go to the top of the trees to escape a
normal fire, they're sitting ducks really.
So I've seen a lot of particularly hard
to watch videos of koalas, you know, basically charred from the fire.
Are they gonna go extinct after this? What's the status of the koala
now, and what's gonna happen to them?
Our estimation is that koala numbers over
the last 230 years have fallen by about 95%, and these fires will
be inching that up towards ninety eight ninety nine percent over time. It's
important to remember that this bushfire and the climate crisis — it has come
after a couple hundred years of decimating koalas and their habitat.
So for 100 years, koalas were shot for their pelts and
there's records of 8 million koala pelts being sold in the United States,
the UK, and I think Europe up until the 1930s, when there was a moratorium put on
shooting koalas.
The term "functionally extinct" has been thrown around in the
media during these fires in reference to the koalas. What does
"functionally extinct" mean, and is that true?
The term "functional extinction" is
used for animals where there are only tens or hundreds not even thousands of
animals left. So rhinos, or animals where there's ten or twenty left. We're not
there yet for koalas. In eastern Australia koalas are listed as a
threatened species but at the lowest level they're called vulnerable. We think
they're now eligible to be uplisted to being an endangered species. There are
solutions to these problems, koalas and polar bears don't need to go extinct. And
the term "functional extinction" doesn't help that.
For people like me at home
like watching this heart-wrenching footage, is there anything we can do to
help the situation?
I think the first thing people can do around the world is
to read up about what's happening in Australia, because if it's happening in our
country, if it's not already happening in your country, it will be in the future,
of some type, as the climate gets worse and worse. We need to convince people who
don't care about nature or the climate — particularly decision makers,
governments, presidents, prime ministers — you have a role in helping keep these
species alive.
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Are Australian koalas going extinct? We asked an ecologist.

217 Folder Collection
Helena published on January 15, 2020
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