Are koalas functionally extinct? No, not necessarily... Watch
A recent headline in Forbes alleged the fires had rendered koalas “functionally extinct”, a claim that was repeated widely in Australia and overseas, including by the Daily Mail and news.com.au.
The claim, which originated from a release in May*by the Australian Koala Foundation, has been*criticised by koala experts and science commentators*for overstating the plight of the popular marsupial.
So what is the truth about the threats to Australia’s koala population?
Are koalas ‘functionally extinct’?
The short answer is no.
Koala populations are in trouble, but this is due to a gradual process of deforestation over many years. This has been made worse by the recent fires, but the full scale of the damage is not yet known.
Stuart Blanch from WWF Australia says if a population is no longer genetically viable, koalas could be said to be “functionally extinct” in some areas.
“But there are large areas of large numbers of koalas that are still viable,” he says. “And they are our hope.