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Robert Irwin Responds to Koalas Being Listed as an Endangered Species

Koalas are a much-adored, tree-bound marsupial native to Australia that many of us are familiar with either from zoos or from their frequent appearances in pop culture as mascots and animated characters. "Koalas are undoubtedly the icons of Australia's native wildlife," says Australian zookeeper and conservationist Robert Irwin in a recent Instagram post. Robert is the son of the late, world-renowned Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin.

Sadly, due to a number of human-created and natural factors, koalas are facing a host of dangers to their continued existence. Robert's post shares that the Australian federal government has officially declared koalas an endangered species. There are as few as 50,000 of these creatures left in the wild.

The listing is specifically for the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which make up essentially 1/3 of the country. Last year, the parliament of New South Wales published a report on koala habitat and populations in their state, which led to the disturbing conclusion that unless serious action is taken, could be extinct in the state by 2050.

So what exactly are all these factors contributing to the koala's endangered status? For one, the 2019-2020 brushfires across the east coast—some of the worst in the country's history—produced mega-blazes that ravaged the koala's environment. Other factors such as land clearing, drought, and diseases play a significant role.

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There is still much hope left for koalas, however. Robert Irwin announced in his Instagram post that, along with the help of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, he has successfully opened Australia Zoo's Koala Intensive Care Unit.

"This gives us the opportunity to cope with the huge numbers of koalas that we treat at the hospital and provide life-saving care," Robert's post says. "Our goal is for each koala to be rehabilitated and released back to the wild. Together we can all ensure that these truly special animals are on the planet forever."

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