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Death to Cuties?

December 2, 2009

Brit Trogen

One needs only to visit Australia to be reminded of the absurdity of evolution.

Where else will you find a creature that needs to sleep for eighteen hours every day because it evolved to eat leaves that are almost entirely indigestible, toxic, and virtually calorie free?

Yes, Phascolarctos cinereus, the gentle Koala (in fact a marsupial, not a bear), is living proof that for every ecological niche, no matter how bizarre, there’s an adorable creature waiting to fill it. But sadly, this particular niche –living in a salad bowl with an insanely slow metabolism – is about to go from silly and cute to dead serious.

A recent survey by the Australian Koala Foundation has shown that the koala population has dropped by almost 50% in the past six years, and if current trends continue could put koalas at risk of extinction within thirty years. And with population threats extending from global warming to deforestation to Chlamydia, it seems that a massive and wide reaching conservation program will be needed to save these furry tree huggers.

Now, I know I’m not the only one who’s starting to notice the trends here. First panda bears, now koalas – if all the cute animals die how will WSPA and the WWF suck us in to donating? But more seriously, what is this going to mean for the future of our planet? Here’s hoping the face of climate change just got a whole lot cuter.

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