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Australia ramping up funds to protect koalas

FILE PHOTO: Wildlife officer Lindy Thomas poses with koalas and their joeys produced by artificial insemination at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast, October 30, 2006. REUTERS/Greg White/File Photo

The Australian government said on Saturday that it will invest an additional A$50 million ($35 million) over the next four years to safeguard koala habitat and prevent the loss of the endangered species.

The news: Bushfires, disease, and cars have destroyed Australia’s native marsupials, with estimates of their natural population varying from 330,000 to no more than 100,000.

What Morrison said: “Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and best recognised icons … and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

What’s going on: The latest package will bring the government’s total koala investment to more than A$74 million since 2019, with funds going toward habitat restoration, population research, and koala health research.

  • Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted illness that also affects humans, has spread among koalas, with half of the animals in some locations being infected.
  • Bushfires killed, wounded, or affected more than 60,000 koalas in 2019 and 2020, according to a research commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund.

Koalas are found primarily in eucalypt woods in eastern states and on the coast’s edges, where they can live for up to 20 years. They sleep for up to 18 hours a day and carry their young in a pouch.

($1 = 1.4314 Australian dollars)

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