Before the novel coronavirus spread through the world like a wildfire, many eyes were watching with horror as an actual bushfire swept through most of Australia.
The fire still has not been extinguished, and has already claimed the lives of 34. However, humans were not the only victims of this deadly fire. The diverse wildlife of Australia have bore the brunt of the damage.
The koala population in particular have been severely struck. Native to the island, koalas have long been considered a national mascot for the Australians along with the kangaroos.
However, their slow moving nature and sedentary lifestyle meant that they were extremely vulnerable to the raging bushfires. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), at least 5,000 koalas were killed by the fires.
That amounts to nearly 12% of the entire population that lived in the New South Wales (NSW) region. NSW was the epicenter for the bushfire and have suffered the most damage because of it.
The fire has burnt more than 12 million acres over NSW. Making things worse, eucalyptus trees are particularly flammable. Koalas famously only feed on eucalyptus leaves.
The dramatic decrease of both population and habitat are ringing the alarms for experts and conservation groups. The status is so severe that according to NSW municipal laws, koalas can be categorized as an endangered species.
The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act was signed into action in 2016. Its main focus is to provide time for the experts to devise a plan for conservation efforts before the said species go extinct.
The law would also enact a stricter punishment that threatens the livelihood of the species. Anything from illegal poaching to acts damaging the habitats could face punishment from the NSW government.
Experts believe that the koala only has a chance to exist in its natural state with the help of humans. Although this fire was a sudden and big impact, koalas have been struggling to survive for a good part of this century.
Climate change and overpopulation have already pushed the marsupials to the brink of extinction. In particular, climate change induced droughts have been extremely fatal to the koalas. One wildlife protectionist commented that this fire very well may be the last blow to the koala population.
Other than being fluffy and cute, koalas are an indispensable part of the Australian biodiversity. Share with us your thoughts on this story in the comments, and follow us on Facebook for more news.