Koala Species Fate Determined Next Week
    2012-04-27 20:29:29     Xinhua       Web Editor: Zhangjin
Australian experts said wild koala population is rapidly declining and the Australian government needs to act within days if the iconic Aussie species are to survive.

Fragile Koala populations need urgent protection under national environment laws, according to the Australian Greens and environmental experts.

The Federal Australian Government currently lists the koala as a 'priority species' for conservation status assessment, although the marsupial - so synonymous with Australia - is still not officially listed as endangered.

Koala numbers are dropping with estimates of between 80,000 and 100,000 left in the wild. The fate of the species could be determined by decisions made in the next few days.

A senate inquiry initiated by the Greens Party has examined the mounting evidence and recommended that the koala be considered for listed as a vulnerable species in areas of significant population decline, with the Government due to make its decision next week.

"We simply can't imagine an Australia without our unique and precious koalas, but that's exactly what experts are saying we could see the extinction of koalas in the wild in our lifetime," Australian Greens spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said.

Koala numbers have plummeted over the last decade, with some assessments suggesting a more than 90 percent drop in some populations.

Restricted to a small crescent of eucalyptus forests on the eastern coast of Australia, Koalas are vulnerable to an array of modern hazards from over-logging, agriculture, climate and urban encroachment.

As development and infrastructure projects continue to drive human populations through Koala sanctuaries, other threats have arisen, from dog attacks to the rise of a fatal form of the sexually transmitted human disease, Chlamydia.

"In the Koala Coast region of south east Queensland, my home state, koala numbers have been in freefall over the last fifteen years, with less than 2,000 remaining in the wild." Senator Waters told Xinhua.

An expert on Koala habitat, Sydney University's Dr Mathew Crowther says the animal that clings to visiting dignitaries and features on postcards, tea towels and coins is in dramatic decline.

He said, "Some populations are quite close to the edge. Some are - we know of local populations going extinct, particularly in northern New South Wales and Queensland, that's where koalas are particularly threatened."

??That view will be tested by the Federal Government's Minister for the Environment Tony Burke next Monday. Senator Waters says it's a critical moment in the future of Australia's unique natural heritage.

"Australia is going backwards in the fight to save our precious and diverse wildlife, and unfortunately the koala is just one of many species in decline and moving closer every day towards extinction."
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