News

Fires in Australia may affect koala population

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
koala sniffing its foot. Photo by Gilles Rollan-Monnet.
Photo by Gilles Rolland-Monnet on Unsplash

Bush and grass fires burning in parts of Australia may be threatening Australia’s koala population.

One hundred and forty-nine bush and grass fires are burning in the country, mostly in New South Wales in the southeast. Some of the fires are destroying the koalas’ habitat (in this case, habitat means the koalas’ “natural home”).

The world’s koala population is already considered “vulnerable,” according to the “Red List of Threatened Species” which is compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN).

The UICN keeps tabs on thousands of species including animals and plants, that are threatened by climate change or other problems. It is used by scientists, governments and others to plan how to help species that are threatened or nearing extinction. (Extinction, in this case, is when a species no longer exists.)

The Red List monitors species, like koalas, and decides whether they are
* of least concern (in other words, if their population is not very threatened);
* near threatened;
* vulnerable;
* endangered;
* critically endangered;
* extinct in the wild; or
* extinct.

Currently, although the koala population is declining (going down), they are not considered “endangered.”

The UICN website notes that conservation plans are in place in some parts of Australia to help protect koala populations.

Many people have expressed concern about the koalas and want to help them. Some people are making tiny mittens for koalas that have had injuries due to the bush fires. The mittens protect their paws so they don’t get further injuries, according to the website for the “Good News Network,” which publishes articles about positive things happening in the world.

The Good News Network website said people are also sending blankets and baskets to Australia for other animals that have been affected by the fires.

The website SBS Dutch said 400 pairs of mittens are being sent to Australia. The website posted a pattern and instructions on how to make koala mittens.

A GoFundMe campaign, where people around the world can donate money, was started to help the koalas affected by the bushfires. It was started by the Koala Hospital in New South Wales, Australia. More than 42,900 donations have been made, from 90 countries, in the three weeks since the fund was started. The fund has raised more than $1.8 million.

THINK AND DISCUSS

According to the UICN, thousands of species are endangered. But when the Australian bushfires began to affect koalas, the world has been taking notice. What is it about koalas, in your opinion, that makes people want to help and protect them?

A “GoFundMe” campaign has raised nearly $2 million to help the koalas. “Crowdfunding” is when many people donate small amounts of money, usually through a website. Do you think crowdfunding is a good idea? Why or why not?

Habitat is the natural environment where a species lives. Describe the habitat for a koala. How are the Australian fires threatening the koalas’ habitat?

Where do koalas live? What do they eat? What else do you know about koalas?

LINKS

About the UICN: https://www.iucnredlist.org/about/background-history

Good News Network website: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/people-knit-mittens-for-burnt-koalas-and-raise-money/

Dutch website SBSDutch has an article about people who are making quilts and mittens for the koalas and includes a pattern for koala mittens: https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/audio/dutch-quilters-make-exquisite-mittens-for-aussie-koalas

The GoFundMe campaign page to help the koalas: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/help-thirsty-koalas-devastated-by-recent-fires

Article by The Australian news organization about the bush and grass fires: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/weekend-to-bring-elevated-nsw-fire-danger/news-story/aec8b10ccfb7f7c20e079709302389de

Toronto Star article about the fires how they are affecting the koalas’ habitat: https://www.thestar.com/news/world/australia/2019/11/30/functionally-extinct-do-dire-claims-about-koalas-help-or-hurt-them.html