No, Koalas Aren’t ‘Functionally Extinct.’ But They Are In Danger.

No, Koalas Aren’t ‘Functionally Extinct.’ But They Are In Danger.

A catastrophic and premature fire season in Australia has sparked a frenzy around one of the country’s most beloved animals: the koala. But behind many headlines, the story is less dire.

National Geographic‘s Natasha Daly reports:

[E]rroneous declarations that the animals have lost most of their habitat and are “functionally extinct” made the rounds in headlines and on social media, illustrating just how quickly misinformation can spread in times of crisis.

Koalas are considered vulnerable to extinction — just a step above endangered — and reports indicate that between 350 and a thousand koalas have been found dead so far in fire-devastated zones of northern New South Wales.

But, experts say, we are not looking at the death of a species — yet. “We’re not going to see koalas go extinct this fast,” says Chris Johnson, professor of wildlife conservation at the University of Tasmania. “Koala populations will continue to decline because of lots of interacting reasons, but we’re not at the point where one event could take them out.”

We talk with Daly about the fate of koalas in Australia.

Produced by Gabrielle Healy.

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