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Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.


"Even before the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires, it was clear that the koala in NSW, already a threatened species, was in significant trouble," says the report, adding that previous population estimates counting 36,000 individuals were "outdated and unreliable."

"Then came the fires. With at least 5,000 koalas lost in the fires, potentially many more, it was deeply distressing but extremely important for committee members to agree to the finding that koalas will become extinct in NSW before 2050 without urgent government intervention."

At least 5,000 animals were lost in the 2019 bushfires responsible for killing more than 1 billion animals. Conservation groups warned of the possible extinction in March after projections that the wildfires resulted in the loss of 80 percent of habitat, forcing the charismatic marsupials into "functional extinction."

Endemic only to the eucalyptus forests in the southeastern and eastern parts of the continent, koalas rely on the trees for both habitat and food, according to National Geographic. They are threatened by the destruction of habitat through the clearing and fragmentation of their unique habitat, which is further exacerbated by climate change and ongoing drought conditions that have plagued the region for years.

As part of their analysis, the independent committee received more than 5,700 responses and 300 submissions, in addition to nine public hearings and site visitations across several locations. Philip Spark, a wildlife ecologist, warned in the report that successive extreme events in the past had reduced one koala population by as much as half and pushed another to local extinction.

"With the trees dying and the streams drying there is a recipe for disaster. Koalas are really on the brink of not surviving," said Spark. "A crisis can happen with very little warning."

Citing a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sparks added that by 2050, one in 100-year events are expected to occur every year with 50-degree Celsius heatwaves in the next 20 years. The committee further found that climate change has a severe impact on koalas and not only affects the quality of their food and habitat, but also compounds the "severity and threats of other impacts, such as drought and bushfires."

The committee made 42 recommendations to ensure the future of the koala, including prioritizing the conservation of koala habitat, establishing more thorough approaches to monitoring koala numbers, and allocating additional resources and funding to conservation projects by calling on the government to protect and restore koala habitat on both public and private land. The report also notes that officials should investigate "without delay" the establishment of the Great Koala National Park, a proposed public conservation area dedicated to protecting the species. An interim report on Australia's national environmental laws is expected this week and is expected to consider the findings that Australia's iconic species is in need of assistance, reports The Guardian.

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Artists pay homage to the fatal victims of COVID-19 during the performance "Whoever left is someone's love" at Brasília's Catedral on June 15, 2020 in Brasília, Brazil. Andressa Anholete / Getty Images

Brazil officially surpassed 50,600 COVID-19 deaths on Sunday, making the South American nation the second largest coronavirus hot spot after the U.S.


Recent figures put the total number of confirmed cases at more than 1,086,990 and 50,659 deaths. The recovery rate is just above 53 percent, according to CoronaTracker. Reuters reports that officials expect the actual numbers to be much higher because of a lack of nationwide testing – typically the country has recorded more than 1,000 deaths per day but registers less over the weekend.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) also announced the largest single-day increase of cases around the world, with more than 183,000 new cases of COVID-19 having been reported to the WHO in what Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described as "easily the most in a single day so far." More than 9 million cases have been reported since the health agency declared the severe respiratory disease a global pandemic in March.

"Some countries are continuing to see a rapid increase in cases and deaths. Some countries that have successfully suppressed transmission are now seeing an upswing in cases as they reopen their societies and economies," said Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Monday's press briefing.

"All countries are facing a delicate balance, between protecting their people, while minimizing the social and economic damage. It's not a choice between lives and livelihoods. Countries can do both."

The BBC reports that São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have seen the largest spikes at 12,500 and 8,800 deaths, respectively. More than 12,000 additional deaths have been reported in the northern states of Amazonas, Pará and Ceará.

A report conducted by the New York Times largely faults government responses and measures for the increase in cases. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro previously dismissed dangers of COVID-19, calling the virus a "measly cold" and has stalled quarantine measures with unclear responses and a chaotic approach. Additionally, the Ministry of Health has not put forth a comprehensive plan and the nation has been unsuccessful in importing coronavirus tests, ventilators and other potentially lifesaving equipment.

Brazil is second in cases only to the US, which has reported more than 2.2 million – a 32,411 increase in just one day. There have been over 119,000 deaths across the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, over 9 million people have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 with more than 469,000 deaths across the globe. Experts caution that those numbers are likely to be much higher given a lack of worldwide testing, reports CBS News.

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The new species, Rhombophryne ellae, is well camouflaged among the rainforest leaflitter. Mark D. Scherz

Located just off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is a remote island nation and home to one of the most biodiverse pockets in the world, among them the elusive diamond frog. Even in the most well-studied areas, new species are constantly being discovered.


Defining and characterizing the "hyper diverse island" is an ongoing effort that has yielded many results in recent years, including defining and characterizing frogs of the diamond genus Rhombophyrne. In the last decade alone, the diversity of diamond frogs has more than doubled, yet even so a number of undescribed species still persist in the wild. Now, Rhombophyrne ellae is a brightly orange colored, highly miniaturized frog described in Zoosystematics and Evolution that is furthering the scientific community's understanding of amphibians on this remote, isolated island.

"As soon as I saw this frog, I knew it was a new species," said Dr. Mark D. Scherz of the Technical University of Braunschweig. "The orange flash-markings on the legs and the large black spots on the hip made it immediately obvious to me. During my Master's and Ph.D. research, I studied this genus and described several species, and there are no described species with such orange legs, and only [a] few species have these black markings on the hip. It's rare that we find a frog and are immediately able to recognize that it is a new species without having to wait for the DNA sequence results to come back, so this was elating."

The study is just the third to have been published on reptiles or amphibians in the park, and describes the finding of R. ellae in 2017. Characterized by the orange coloration on its legs and large black spots, this species is closely related to another poorly known and undescribed species of frog from northern Madagascar. It remains unclear why diamond frogs have such dramatic coloration even though it appears that this feature has evolved in many Madagascar frogs.

In itself, the discovery highlights how little is still known about our planet, particularly small species found in remote and biodiverse places around the world – even the most well-studied regions.

"The discovery of such a distinctive species within a comparatively well-studied park points towards the gaps in our knowledge of the amphibians of the tropics," said Sherz.

"It also highlights the role that bad weather, especially cyclones, can play in bringing otherwise hidden frogs out of hiding – R. ellae was caught just as Cyclone Ava was moving in on Madagascar, and several other species my colleagues and I have recently described were also caught under similar cyclonic conditions."

Though the conservation status of R. ellae still remains unknown, the researchers conclude that it is likely to be considered "near threatened" due to its small range.

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