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Recently, polar bears have pretty much owned the position of anti-climate-change mascot and global warming victim — so much so that they’ve even forced the government to get its act together. But now they’ve got competition in the cute-n-cuddly department: Koalas are under species-wide threat from climate change and CO2 emissions.
Koalas already have the deck stacked against them: Housing keeps encroaching on their natural Australian forests, and their strict diet of eucalyptus leaves is low on nutrition and forces them to sleep most of the day to maintain a super-low metabolism. But CO2 emissions saps the few nutrients present from eucalyptus leaves and boosts their toxicity level. Unless carbon emissions are curbed, koalas could be poisoning themselves with the only food they eat.
“What currently may be good koala habitat may well become, over a period of not so many years at the rate that carbon dioxide concentrations are rising, very marginal habitat,” said Ian Hume, Emeritus Professor of Biology at Sydney University, who carried out the research. “”I’m sure we’ll see koalas disappearing from their current range even though we don’t see any change in tree species or structure of the forests.”
Koalas are notoriously finicky eaters who only eat about 25 of the 600 known species of eucalyptus tree. Obviously, they’re not going to change for us — they’re too busy sleeping — so it’s up to us. Hopefully worldwide cultures can start making progress on lowering emissions, before another cuddly animal gets added to the global warming kill-list. What’s next, baby seals? I don’t think my fragile constitution could handle it.
— Ted Alvarez