Canberra, Jan 13 (IANS) Australian Minister of Environment Sussan Ley on Monday warned that koalas could be listed as an endangered species as a result of the devastating bushfires that have killed thousands of the animal.
Ley and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday announced A$50 million ($34 million) in funding to support species affected by the bushfire crisis, reports Xinhua news agency.
Ley told the media that koala populations have suffered an “extraordinary hit” from the fires, declaring that the iconic native Australian species could be officially listed as “endangered”.
Koalas have been considered “vulnerable” since 2012 but Ley said that the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which manages the status of all species in Australia, could soon downgrade it.
“There is no doubt a large number of koalas have lost their lives, many others have been injured,” she said.
“The truth is we don’t know the full extent of that damage until it has been mapped and until these fires are over.”
Experts fear that half of the 50,000 koalas that live on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, one of the hardest hit by the bushfires, have perished in the blazes.
“Everything that can be done to rescue and recover koala habitat, will be done, including innovative approaches that look at whether you can actually put a koala in an area that it hasn’t come from,” Ley saidy.
Half of the additional funding will go directly to zoos, wildlife carers and hospitals while the rest will be managed by Sally Box, the Threatened Species Commissioner, who will co-chair a committee with Ley on long-term recovery efforts.