Deaths of 13 koalas at Victorian plantation under investigation: 'Devastating'

WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: Victorian authorities are investigating the deaths of 13 koalas at a blue-gum plantation near Hamilton.

Alerted to the bodies on Tuesday by the plantation operator, the Conservation Regulator is now working to determine what killed them.

Necropsies will now be conducted on the remains, which were found at an unharvested location at the site in an area 30 x 30 metres with no visible injuries.

The bodies of 13 koalas have been found at a timber plantation in Victoria. Source: Conservation Regulator
The bodies of 13 koalas have been found at a timber plantation in Victoria. Source: Conservation Regulator

Images supplied by investigators show the bodies are in various states of decomposition - one animal still retains some fur, while another appears to be little more than a skeleton.

Preliminary inspections of the bodies indicate some koalas had been dead for just two weeks, while others likely died around 12 months ago.

The Conservation Regulator will now consider if environmental or human factors resulted in their deaths.

“Koalas, like all native wildlife, are protected in Victoria and we are following all lines of inquiry to better understand when, where and how these koalas died,” the Conservation Regulator's Ash Bunce said.

'Where does this end for koalas?'

When contacted by Yahoo News Australia about the discovery, local koala rescuer Janet Murray was horrified.

“Where does this end for these koalas? It’s just devastating,” she said.

She has been inundated by escalating requests to assist dead and dying koalas in the state's southwest, many of them alleged to have been displaced by habitat loss.

As a result, less than a fortnight ago, Ms Murray went public, sharing dozens of images of the koalas she had assisted.

She also attended to the scene of a prescribed burn at Mount Richmond where koalas were burned alive.

These incidents are separate to the current Conservation Regulator investigation.

Anthony Amis from Friends of the Earth has been investigating the impact of industry on koalas across the southwest.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia on Thursday night, he said the most recent incident has left him “very alarmed".

“This seems very suspicious and it’s very rare to have so many animals found in one spot” he said.

“The issue down in the southwest is an ongoing disaster of national concern.”

The maximum penalty for destruction of protected wildlife in Victoria is $9,087 and / or six months in prison.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

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