Dozens of koalas settling into new home after over-eating trees

·Environment Editor
·2-min read

More than 90 koalas have been moved to a new home after gnawing their food sources bare in parts of southwest Victoria.

Photos of the translocation show the marsupials bundled into washing baskets and crates by wildlife officers before being released into their new home in the Great Otway National Park, off the Great Ocean Road.

During the program, which was undertaken on private land at Cape Otway, 54 female koalas received fertility control in order to slow population growth.

More than 90 koalas have been captured and translocated in Victoria. Source: DELWP
More than 90 koalas have been captured and translocated in Victoria. Source: DELWP

While Victoria's environment department (DELWP) allowed 32 koalas to remain on site, a total of 46 male and 46 female koalas were trucked to nearby land north of Lorne, where they are distributed in lower numbers.

The program, which took place between May 17 and 27, is the eighth time in just six years, DELWP has moved koalas in the region to avoid over-browsing of their favourite food, manna gums.

“It’s encouraging to see the manna gum trees at Cape Otway starting to recover – they’re in their best condition in ten years, with foliage returning and new saplings starting to grow,” a DELWP spokesperson said.

“The health of the koala population is tracking well, much better than in previous years when the koalas had significantly depleted their food source, by stripping many manna gum trees of their leaves.”

Koala population stable in Victoria after near-extinction

Since white settlement, large parts of Cape Otway's cold climate forest have been logged by the timber industry and farmers.

Today, fragmented patches of forest are often quick to be degraded by koalas, which were reintroduced into the area from French Island from the 1920s to the 1980s, after hunting and land clearing drove them to near-extinction on the mainland in the early 1900s.

Koalas were moved from denuded forest (left) to healthier forest (right). Source: DELWP
Koalas were moved from denuded forest (left) to healthier forest (right). Source: DELWP

Unlike koalas in Queensland, NSW and ACT, which are listed as vulnerable to extinction, populations in Victoria and South Australia are stable, however the majority are compromised by a genetic bottleneck which occurred when their numbers plummeted.

Previous government efforts to control numbers in Cape Otway controversially incorporated culling, including the "secret" euthanasia of almost 700 individuals between 2013 and 2014.

Translocation and fertility control are now more common practice and this year the department reported that just eight were euthanised as a result of ill-health.

Koala management programs have improved the health of both koalas and the remaining forest over time, according to DELWP.

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