The koala it’s an animal mammal that resembles a small size bear. It’s about a marsupial: after giving birth, the female incubates her young in a ventral bag where the breasts are located.
Scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus, the koala is an endemic species of Australia which is classified as arboreal since it lives in the trees. It is usually about 70 centimeters tall and can weigh up to 15 kilograms.
Among the main physical characteristics of the koala are its large head, large nose, rounded ears, and body robust that lacks a tail and is covered in brown or grayish fur. As for their behavior, they are not very sociable beings.
The main habitat of the koala is the woods from eucalyptus, and feeds especially on the leaves of this tree. Due to the low amount of calories and nutrients it consumes, it is a sedentary animal that can sleep about 20 hours a day.
By their appearance, koalas often become the stars of zoos where they are in captivity. Similar to children’s stuffed animals, it is common for them to be named as “Koala bears”, although they are not actually bears. It should be noted that, thanks to their popularity, koalas are a symbol of Australia and a tourist attraction in said nation.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature, the koala is a vulnerable species. This is mainly due to the destruction of the habitat caused by advancing urbanization, agriculture and even forest fires. However, the koala has few natural predators.
Despite being so adorable and awakening such positive feelings in people due to their extremely peculiar appearance and gentle demeanor, there are very few koalas left in the world. So few that the Australian Koala Foundation (known by its acronym AKF) considers it «functionally extinct«. Experts estimate that the total number does not exceed eighty thousand and that their role in ecosystems East Australians has been reduced to a minimum.
This is not only aggravating and sad, but it shows us once again the cruelty and arrogance of the human being: while there are millions of people who are good for nothing, living on other people’s money and without getting up from the sofa to do something useful with their time to whom no one calls “functionally extinct,” the poor koala is considered almost irrelevant to the nature just because our species has reduced its population to too low a number.
One of the problems that lead to the use of this classification is that with such a small population it cannot be guaranteed that there will be many more generations. In addition, since its ecosystem is so deteriorated, it will not be viable for much longer and the role of the koala in the food chains has diminished until it lost importance.
In 2013, the company Nature published the results of a study that focused on the investigation of the impact that functional extinctions have in different trophic chains. They took certain species as a reference and tried to estimate the consequences of their mortality on the entire ecosystem. The term “functional” was used for the disappearance that occurs due to the reduction of its population; “numerical” extinction, on the other hand, is that which consists in the species disappearing completely.
It is believed that millions of years ago, the koala in Australia had the function of being food for the megafauna. Today they collaborate with the fertilization of the same forests that serve as food. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, humans killed more than eight million koalas hunting, and that was just one of many attempts by our species towards yours.