The koala is perhaps the best-loved of all Australia's marsupial, or pouched, mammals. Although it is rather bear-like in appearance, its nearest relatives are the opossums. 

From Persecution to Protection

In the early years of this century there were millions of koalas. Now there are thousands. The decline in numbers began in 1887 when for two years, and again in 1900 for three years, disease killed many. Also at that time, a favourite 'sport' was to shoot koalas as they sat in their tree-tops. Over the years, koalas have been killed by forest fires and their habitat destroyed to make way for agriculture and towns. There used to be a market for their thick, beautiful fur. In 1924 over 2 million koala pelts were exported. Fortunately, the public began to object strongly to this ruthless slaughter and sanctuaries were set up for them. Koalas are now fully protected and are not currently classed as a species under-threat.

Read More: Vulnerable Species

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