Koalas are arboreal herbivorous marsupials that are indigenous to Australia. Koalas are the only living members of the family Phascolarctidae, and they are closely related to the wombats. Koalas are easily recognizable by their spoon-shaped noses, huge heads with fluffy round ears, and stout, tailless bodies. Koalas weigh about 33 pounds and have a maximum body length of approximately 33 inches. Koala's fur ranges in color from chocolate brown to silver grey. These marsupials inhabit the open-eucalypt woodlands and feed on the leaves of these trees. They are asocial creatures that sleep 20 hours per day. Koalas give birth to under-developed young ones that stay in their mother's pouches for about 7 months. The koalas from the northern parts of Australia are lighter in color and smaller than the ones from the south. The first detailed description of this animal was written in 1814 by Robert Brown. More details about this unique creature were published during the nineteenth century by numerous scientists. The IUCN (International-Union-for-Conservation-of-Nature) has listed them as vulnerable.
Which States Host Koala Populations?
The geographical range of the koalas covers 390,000sq miles and 30 ecosystems. Its range extends throughout southeastern and east Australia encompassing Victoria, eastern NSW (New South-Wales), South Australia, and southeastern, central, and northeastern parts of Queensland. Koalas have also been introduced on numerous islands, like French Island and Kangaroo Island, and even near Adelaide. They can be found in climate ranging from cool to tropical temperate and in habitats ranging from woodland to forests. Fossil evidence confirms that their range extended to Western Australia during the late-Pleistocene.
When the settlers arrived in Australia, they identified koalas as a great source of fur. Therefore they hunted them for fur until the 1930s, and by then, Koalas had become extinct in some parts of the country. Koalas were extirpated in NWS and Victoria and extinct in South Australia by 1924. Koalas were later reintroduced in Victoria (where they are almost extinct) and South Australia (where they were extirpated). Koalas are unevenly distributed and uncommon in Queensland. Koalas can be found everywhere in Victoria and only in Pilliga in NWS.
Why Are Koalas Considered To Be Vulnerable?
Initially, Red List had listed koalas as Least-Concerned; however, they were up-listed to Vulnerable by 2016. The government listed the koalas in NSW and Queensland as Vulnerable due to a 33% population decrease in former and 40% decrease in the latter. The koala population in South Australia and Victoria seems to be increasing. According to a 2017 report by the WWF, the koala population in NSW has declined by 26%, and in Queensland, it has decreased by 53%.
The aboriginals were hunting the Koalas long before the European settlers arrived in the region. However, after the settlers arrived, the hunting of koalas intensified. The European settlers hunted them for their large soft, and thick fur. Over 2 million pelts were exported from Australia in 1924. Pelts were used as coat linings and rugs. Extensive culling took place in Queensland in 1919, 1917, and 1915. More than a million koalas were killed in Queensland during this period using nooses, poisons, and guns. Public-outcry over culling of the koalas was the first national environmental problem rallied by the locals. Despite the growing need for protecting the koalas, the drought of 1926 to 1928 resulted in the killing of over 600,000 koalas in august 1927. Fredrick Lewis claimed that there were less than 1,000 koalas in Victoria by 1934. The distribution of these animals has reduced by half since the settlers' arrival, mainly due to the destruction of their habitats in Queensland. The koalas living in the urban regions have numerous distinct vulnerabilities, including attacks from dogs and collisions with cars. Domestic dogs kill over 4,000 koalas annually.