The Australian government may make koalas an “endangered” animal after the population took an “extraordinary hit” in the ongoing bushfire crisis, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said on Monday, reported ABC News. The government has set up an emergency fund of 50 million Australian dollars to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the bushfires.
The Australian bushfires have killed at least 26 people and destroyed over 2,000 homes since September. Over 1.25 billion animals are believed to be dead and more than 30% of the koala’s habitat across the country has been destroyed in the bushfires. Koalas are currently listed as vulnerable in Australia.
This came days after five conservation groups wrote to Ley and her state counterparts expressing concern for at least 13 animal species, reported The Guardian.
The government said its immediate priorities would be rehabilitating injured wildlife, securing threatened species and scientifically mapping the damage and working with landowners to protect unburned areas.
Half of the emergency fund will be spent based on advice from a panel of experts led by the threatened species commissioner, said treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The rest will go towards supporting wildlife rescue. “This initial investment of $50 million into the protection and restoration of our wildlife and habitat is a critical step in creating a viable future for the animals that have survived,” Frydenberg said.