Australia increases spending to protect koalas

Australia will spend an additional A$50 million ($35 million) over the next four years to protect koala habitat and slow the decline of vulnerable species, the government announced on Saturday. The marsupials native to Australia have been decimated by bushfires, disease and vehicles, with estimates of their numbers ranging from around 330,000 to no more than 100,000 in the wild.

“Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and recognized icons…and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement. The new package will bring the government’s investment in the koala to more than A$74 million since 2019 and will be dedicated to habitat restoration, population study and expanding research on the koala health.

Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease also found in humans, has spread among koalas, affecting half the animals in some areas. A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund estimated that more than 60,000 koalas were killed, injured or otherwise affected by bushfires in 2019 and 2020.

Koalas live primarily in the eucalyptus forests of the eastern states and on the coastal fringes, typically living up to 20 years. They carry their young in a pouch and sleep for up to 18 hours a day. ($1 = 1.4314 Australian dollars)

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