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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Call for action on koalas
Koala and baby BBC
Koalas are not in danger - as yet
On the eve of National Koala Day, conservationists in Australia are calling on the authorities to protect the koala population and its habitat.

If we protect koalas now before endangerment, we think they will have a better chance from a genetic point of view

Deborah Tabart
Australian Koala Foundation
Although there are an estimated 100,000 of the marsupials in the eastern coastal region, the Australian Koala Foundation says they face a serious threat from land clearance.

The koalas live in eucalyptus and gum trees, but these are being felled to make way for housing and roads.

"If we protect koalas now before endangerment, we think they will have a better chance from the genetic point of view," says Deborah Tabart, of the Australian Koala Foundation.

The foundation says the animals' popularity helps generate hundred of millions of dollars from tourists.

Flyover in Queensland BBC
Modern roads are destroying the koala's habitat
It is calling on the Australian Government to declare the koala a species of "national significance".

This would give federal authorities the power to step in if they considered the koala habitat was threatened. But a government spokeswoman said it saw no need for extra legislation.

"The scientific evidence we have received is that the koala is not threatened on a national basis."

The Australian Koala Foundation claims the population has fallen from several million a hundred years ago to the present figure.

It says only about one fifth of the koalas' original habitat is still intact.

National Koala Day in Australia is used to collect funds and spread awareness about the furry marsupial.

See also:

27 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Australia
18 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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