At one time, koalas were hunted for their thick fur, but now there are laws that protect them from hunters. Today, koalas face other dangers. One of the greatest threats to koalas is the destruction of their habitat or home. Many eucalyptus trees are cut down by people. Forests are cleared to make room for shopping malls, houses, and roads. Some trees are killed by diseases. Others are burnt in fires. When the eucalyptus trees disappear, the koalas that lived in them are left without a place to live.
Why are koalas threatened?
Today the number of koalas thought much of Australia is falling.
They are already becoming extinct in some places. The main threat is the loss of their habitat. They depend upon certain types of eucalyptus woodland to survive, but these are getting smaller and smaller in size. This is because humans have cleared away vast areas of bush for farming, houses, roads, and factories. The situation is made worse by bushfire and the gradual loss of trees, known as tree dieback, caused by harmful changes in the environment.
Koalas living in or near towns are also in danger from the domestic dogs that often attack and kill them. Many koalas are run over by cars.
The future for koalas
Eucalyptus woodlands are fast disappearing in Australia. Koalas depend on eucalyptus for their food and shelter.
Koalas are now overcrowded on Kangaroo Island.
Too many koalas living in too few trees mean less food for all the species that live in these woodlands.
Because there is no opportunity for koalas from other populations to reach the Island, the koalas there, are now suffering from inbreeding. The introduced koalas did not have the Chlamydia bacterium that acts as a natural population control, so their numbers have been increasing too fast. The latest koala survey in 2001 estimated that there were between 21,000 and 33,000 koalas on the island (although not all scientists agree that the numbers are so high). What is known for sure is that the koalas on Kangaroo Island are now very overcrowded. There are too few trees where young koalas can set up their own home ranges, and they are steadily munching their way through a limited supply of eucalyptus leaves, destroying the habitat of other threatened species. This situation is an example of how intervention by humans can upset the balance of nature.
Artificial birth control is one method that has been used to reduce the number of koalas on the island. So far almost 3,500 animals on the island have been sterilized (so they can no longer breed) and released back into the wild. Around 1,200 of these have now been relocated to the mainland. However, not all scientists agree with this solution