Hundreds of koalas are suspected to have perished in the bushfires that are blazing across eastern Australia.
It would, however, be erroneous to say that koalas, which draw hundreds of tourists to Australia every year, may have become "functionally extinct."
Several news reports and social media posts in the past few days sparked major concern after they claimed that the koalas have become "functionally extinct." A claim that has now been found to be an exaggeration.
The term "functionally extinct" would mean that there are no koalas left for the species to breed or to be capable of playing any role in the ecosystem.
Koalas may be vulnerable to extinction.
The term "functional extinction" would indicate that nothing can be done to protect or save the koalas, Jacquelyn Gill, an associate professor at the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute told NYT. Later in a Twitter post, Gill noted:
"...the difference between "nothing can be done" and "something can be done" is critically important. That's the space we need to act."
The koala population is spread across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
While it is true that a considerable koala population may have been decimated in areas ravaged by the fire such as northern South Wales, but there are still koalas that have not been affected at all in the southern state of Victoria, Diana Fisher, a conservation scientist at the University of Queensland told National Geographic.
The report on koalas being "functionally extinct" first appeared in Forbes, the story created quite a stir and now has been edited to reflect the changes.
The Forbes headlines, it appears was on the basis of a claim by a koala conservation group. It had quoted a statement by the chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, who had said that the Australian bushfires had decimated 80 percent of koala habitat.