“Koalas are one of Australia’s most beloved and most recognized icons, both here at home and around the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come,” Morrison said in the statement.
The fund will be used to “restore koala habitat, improve our understanding of koala populations, support training in koala handling and care, and strengthen research on koala health outcomes,” Morrison said.
With the new investment, the Australian government will spend $74 million Australian ($52 million US) on koalas since 2019, it added.
According to a statement from the Australian Koala Foundation in September 2021, about 30% of Australia’s koalas have been lost due to bushfires, drought and clearing of land for development. That includes severe population losses following the catastrophic wildfires of 2019, which destroyed more than 12 million acres (48,000 square kilometers) of land in New South Wales alone.
Scientists are now testing vaccines against chlamydia to protect the animals. Researchers are also studying the genetic strength of populations to see how unique DNA variants can provide resistance to disease, the premier said.
The koala is listed as “vulnerable” on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which catalogs species threatened with extinction. The IUCN says there are between 100,000 and half a million koalas in the wild, but the Australian Koala Foundation says the number is closer to 58,000.