Fires have destroyed 80% of the Koalas Habitats in Australia but there are still over 40,000 Koalas.
Austrialian Koala Foundation Exaggerated Claim of Functional Extinction
On May 10, 2019, the Australian Koala Foundation issued a press release that opened with the sentence “The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) believes Koalas may be functionally extinct in the entire landscape of Australia.” The press release was reported on by multiple news agencies around the world, with most repeating the AKF’s statement. Koalas are NOT currently considered functionally extinct. The IUCN Red List lists them only as “Vulnerable”. The AKF’s press release was released on the eve of the 2019 elections in Australia, where topics such as climate change were a major issue.
Environmental Groups perform a disservice by overplaying hysterical hype.
There are only about 40,000 to 100,000 koalas remaining after wildfires decimated the population according to the Australia Zoo. More than 2.5 million koalas have been killed to supply the fur trade in America and Europe.
In 2014, there were an estimated 300,000 koalas.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
18 thoughts on “Koalas Are in Trouble But Functionally Extinction Claim is a Lie”
People who make up terms that sound like normal English terms but have significantly different meanings, and then use those terms in situations like press releases where 95% of the audience will interpret them in the normal English meaning, are deliberately setting out to deceive people.
Either that or they are so isolated in their ivory towers that they forget normal people exist. Which from an outside point of view can be treated in the same way.
As an engineer I know we have terms like stress, strain, power, energy, strength, impulse, jerk etc. where the normal English meaning is quite different from the engineering meaning. (Eg. Most people would interpret power, energy and strength as near synonyms.) But I have never heard or read these terms being used in press releases in such a way as to fool the public.
I just want to understand your point. The AKF issued a press release, the first line of which read:
The term “functional extinction” has a defined scientific meaning and no one here has refuted (except anecdotally, which I ignore) the possibility that in its current state, the koala population meets one or more of the tests for this term.
Further, the AKF wrote “may be functionally extinct”. Not are. May.
Finally, they wrote “The… AKF believes“. So they further qualified it as the opinion of their organization, not as that of anyone else.
In other words, the AKF expressed their opinion that the koala population may meet one or more tests for an established scientific term, an opinion that has not been disproven here, and they said this plainly, and yet for this you think we should “treat those people as lying liars who lie”. Got it.
The south east of Victoria has a massive Koala population. Was at Great Otway NP in 2013 and saw over 100 Koalas just on one walk. Don’t think it burned, though I know for a fact they actually did a government Koala population reduction program in that area a few years ago.
Drop bears should do fine. No idea what their STD status is.
I thought you were going to mention that the second largest threat to Koalas is that they all have sexually transmitted diseases. But somehow you opened with that line and still managed to avoid that subject.
But it’s true. The furry little harlots.
We are seeing this commonly in the end stage mass media.
You get a headline like “90% of College Students participate in regular binge drinking!!!!!11111!!!!!”
And only if you dig deep into the fine print do you find that “For the purposes of this study, “Binge Drinking” is defined as having 2 or more standard drinks in one session.”
So if you go to a BBQ and have 2 glasses of beer over the afternoon, or go to dinner and have 2 glasses of wine, you are now classified as a binge drinker in the middle of a drinking binge.
So OK, they weren’t technically lying. If you read the whole article. Or if the article skips that bit maybe if you follow the article back to the original source. Then you find out the truth.
But for the purposes of a normal person reading the headline, or listening to the 20 second summary that appears on TV, this is highly deceptive. The English term “binge drinker” is so completely different from the coded meaning being used that it is, for all intents and purposes, a falsehood.
If someone says something that, in normal language, paints a picture of people passed out unconscious in a pool of vomit whereas they are actually legal to drive. Or “extinct” meaning they have all died out whereas they still outnumber tigers for example. Then we would save a lot of time and trouble if we just treat those people as lying liars who lie and ignore everything they say.
yep you’re right, in fact fire is one of the key ways that eucalyptus trees’ seeds germinate
so the ecosystem is fully geared to deal with wildfires to the point where its part of the whole cycle.. good ol’ australia!
Fires are a part of that climate, koalas too. And yet, there is somehow plenty of both, which not so subtly points to the fact that nature is a self-regulating system, not a manually controlled one.
Yeah, they’ve kind of worked themselves into a vanishing niche. And aren’t eucalyptus trees a bit on the enthusiastically flammable side normally?
Ah, OK. I guess I can put my protest signs away.
Biologically, koala bears did kind of screw themselves. Their diet consists almost solely of eucalyptus leaves. Those trees go away, they’re all dead. These fires in this region of Australia represent a big portion of their cafeteria lineup. A lot of these critters are going to starve to death. The statement is thus somewhat factual in the eventual outcome of events.
The fur trade ended back in the late 1930s!
Pretty sure its 1888 to 1927 fur trade not 2019 fur trade.
Fur trade to America? Who is wearing koala fur coats here? I don’t see anyone wearing furs of any kind here. People don’t even like to wear fake fur because other people may think it is real. Sure cow leather jackets, and cow leather shoes, purses, belts, and wallets. Some alligator shoes, belts, and wallets. koala? That has got to be wrong.
In times when most people do not distinguish between facts, opinions, beliefs, intuition, speculation, manipulative narrative, random babble and lies, broadcast institutional “opinion” without a paragraph of exhaustive clarification at the level of a five-year old is effectively indistinguishable from a lie – the result is the same.
On the point of continuity of koala species, there are koalas in Queensland, and Queensland is not on fire. As a species, koalas will be fine, now more pampered then ever.
It’s not a “lie”, it’s an opinion.
Based on the IUCN’s last assessment in May 2014, and the population after the fires (as you report), we’re talking about a reduction in population of somewhere between 67-87%. That’s a severe blow.
“Functional extinction” doesn’t just mean that the species is literally gone; it includes scenarios in which the species “no longer plays a significant role in ecosystem function” or “will not be able to sustain itself due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift” (per Wikipedia). I’m not in a position to judge, but it’s entirely possible that the koala population now meets one or both of these tests.
Initially I was going to write that this seemed BS because we see them in a friends’ back yard, crossing the road on drives etc and hear about them wanting to cull Koalas on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Turns out I just live close to the areas that still have some. Sad.
Comments are closed.