koala
The marsupial mammal sees the female koala after giving birth carrying her baby in her pouch for about six months. Koalas need a lot of space, almost a hundred trees per animal, and with Australia's woodlands shrinking, the Koala is losing out.REUTERS

Australia's iconic mascot the koala will be listed as a "vulnerable species" in Queensland state with its numbers dropping by 80% in recent times.

The state government has accepted a recommendation by an independent panel of scientists to lift the conservation status of the koala. It will specifically look into potential impacts on koala populations from development and resource projects.

The marsupial has lost much of its habitat to competing pressure for land from human population.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the decision will extend the vulnerable status across the state, reports ABC News.

Currently, koalas are only listed as vulnerable in south-east Queensland.

"The koala is an iconic species that faces many threats including climate change, habitat reduction, disease, motor vehicle strike and attacks by dogs," she said.

Australian Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart believes the listing will merely serve to dislodge a stronger federal listing made in 2012.

"The koalas have declined 80% so no one can convince me that a Queensland vulnerable listing will protect koalas. This is political games and the developers are up to their necks in it."

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 100,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000.

The koala is not considered endangered in Australia. In fact, it was among "least concern" species by the IUCN based on large populations.

Malnutrition and starvation

However, it is also among the species destined to be hardest hit by climate change. In its 2009 review "Species and climate change", the IUCN had noted that Australia's iconic Koala faces malnutrition and ultimate starvation as the nutritional quality of eucalyptus leaves declines following increase in CO2 levels.

While plants need CO2 to grow and grow faster when there is more of it around, fast-growing gum leaves contain less protein and more tannin, so koalas have to eat more to survive.

Koalas already eat up to 500g of leaves a day and their guts may not be able to hold much more.

Droughts and bushfires due to climate change would force slow-moving koalas to leave their trees in search of water and safety.

The marsupial mammal sees the female koala after giving birth carrying her baby in her pouch for about six months.

Koalas need a lot of space, almost a hundred trees per animal, and with Australia's woodlands shrinking, the koala is losing out.