Koalas could be classified 'endangered' after fires decimate population

Two rescued koalas from bushfire affected areas rest in a wooden crate before being checked by veterinary services in the RSPCA triage van in the town of Bairnsdale, Australia, on Jan 9, 2019.

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.

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That’s the verdict of Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who announced a A$50 million ($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 bushfires have devastated huge tracts of forest and bushland — 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% of the koala population on the mid-north coast of New South Wales may have been killed.

Images of scorched koalas, kangaroos and livestock have been beamed across the world and flooded social media, becoming an enduring image of the months-long wildfire crisis that shows no signs of abating.

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