SYDNEY – Australia’s koala population has taken such an “extraordinary hit” from the wildfires sweeping the country that the marsupial could be classified as endangered in some areas, according to Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
Ley announced a 50 million Australian dollar ($35 million) funding package on Monday to help protect wildlife and restore the natural habitat.
“It may be necessary … to see whether in certain parts of the country, koalas move from where they are, which is often vulnerable, up to endangered,” the Sydney Morning Herald cited Ley as saying.
The bush fires have devastated huge tracts of forest and bush land — an area twice the size of Switzerland — and may have killed as many as a billion native birds, mammals and reptiles. Ley has previously said that up to 30 percent of the koala population on the midnorth coast of New South Wales may have been killed.
Images of scorched koalas, kangaroos and livestock have been beamed across the world and have flooded social media, becoming an enduring image of the monthslong wildfire crisis that shows no signs of abating.