Koalas declared functionally extinct in Australia
Alok Gupta
Wildlife conservationists declared Australia's native animal, the koala, functionally extinct.
Their number has plummeted to a low of 80,000, affecting their capacity to reproduce the next generation.
“Massive urbanization cleared vast tracts of forests destroying koalas' habitat, it has nearly wiped out the animal's population,” Deborah Tabart, chairman of Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) told CGTN.
“Government inaction and climate change have further pushed them to become functionally extinct.”
An animal is declared functionally extinct when its number reduces to the extent that it starts inbreeding, threatening their future existence. 
According to AKF, there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia. “This is approximately one percent of the eight million koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” Tabart said.
The foundation monitors the koala's habitat in Australia's 128 federal electorates. Surveyors were alarmed after they found no koalas in 41 electorates considered a vital range for the animal.
“It is shocking that 41 electorates have no koalas; they are extinct,” the organization said.
There is no official data for the animal in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory.
‘Empty promises'
Koalas number in few electorates has been completely wiped out. /AKF Graphics

Koalas number in few electorates has been completely wiped out. /AKF Graphics

In 2012, the Australian lawmakers placed the koala under the ‘threatened species" category in selected parts of the country. 
Plans were made to protect the animal, which faces severe threats from climate change and urbanization.
During recent heat waves, many koalas were found unconscious due to dehydration and wildfires destroying their habitat.
According to World Wildlife Fund, rising temperatures are affecting the composition of water and nitrogen content in eucalyptus leaves – the koala's favorite food – making them less nutritious and offering less water.
In order to generate global attention, Borobi, a blue koala bear was selected last year as the mascot of the Common Wealth Games held in Australia.
“After 31 years I have worked with Ministers Richardson, Kelly, Faulkner, Hill, Kemp, Campbell, Turnbull, Garrett, Burke, Butler, Hunt, Frydenberg, and Price, yet no support for the koalas have been shown,” Tabart said.
In 2106, concerned over the depleting number of koalas, International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the animal vulnerable.
“I have heard many empty promises from members of government pretending to protect the koala. Look where we are now," said Tabart.