Koalas are one of the most recognizable animals in the world. Although they’re sometimes called “koala bears,” koalas are actually marsupials, which means that they’re closely related to kangaroos and possums. The koala’s only naturally occurring habitat is in Australia. They were widespread and common throughout Australia up until about one hundred years ago, when they were hunted to near extinction for thei r furs. Despite all the conservation efforts that have occurred to date, the native koala population is still dangerously low. Loss of Koala Habitat. Many of the biggest threats to the ongoing koala bear populations all flow from a single phenomenon – the fact that increasing urbanization and human development is encroaching upon and destroying native koala bear habitats. Losing their living and grazing areas is the most direct threat coming from humans, but they are our other indirect human-caused threats as well. Koalas are also killed by domestic pets (most often dogs or cats), and forest fires triggered by human behavior kill countless more koalas. Why the Koala Needs to Be Protected. Protecting the koala population today is so important because they are such a unique animal. As noted above, koalas only live naturally in Australia, and even then they only live in certain portions of the country. If the koala population in Australia is weakened too much, there aren’t any other native populations in other parts of the world that can be relied upon for the continued survival of the species. There have been too many species of animals that have become extinct over the past few decades. Every species deserves the opportunity to keep on living, of course, but in some ways having an animal as “cute” as the koala in need of help can help conservation causes more than other animals. It might be difficult to get our children fully energized in conservation efforts if those efforts are focused on a relatively unknown insect or underwater invertebrate. Every person’s conservation sensitivities need to start someplace, and it’s likely to be easier to get our children on the right track when we’re talking about the koala. What We Can Do. There are different ways that we can take action to help save the dwindling koala population. The first, of course, is to support organizations that seek to protect native koala habitats. There are a number of different organizations that help, and different ways to provide financial support. Many organizations offer subscription-type donations where you make a set financial donation every month. Of course, one time donations are always welcome as well. In addition, you might also look for organizations that focus on specific solutions to the problems that koalas face. For example, it’s widely accepted that a current threat to koalas is automobile traffic. Many hundreds of koalas are killed each year while simply trying to cross the road. Some groups are focusing their energies to build tunnels under roads so that koalas can safely cross. Whichever way you choose to help, the important thing is to start doing something as soon as you can.