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Are Australia’s koalas going extinct? We asked an ecologist.

Fires have decimated koala populations. But one expert still has hope.

This fire season has been one of the worst on record in Australia. So far, an area the size of Portugal has burned, and 1 billion animals are estimated to have died — among them, the koala. Slow-moving and dependent on the forest, koalas have been especially hard hit, with an estimated 8,000 lost in New South Wales alone.

Koalas were already threatened before these fires broke out. For decades, humans have hunted koalas for their pelts and destroyed their habitats through deforestation. As a result, the population has dropped dramatically. Between 1788 and 2010, the koala population in Australia decreased by 95 percent. But after this year’s fire season, experts believe koalas are now in danger of extinction — unless policy changes are put in place to save them.

Watch the video above the learn more about the status of the koala after this season’s destructive fires.

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