'It smells like death': Koalas bulldozed on Victorian property

WARNING – DISTURBING CONTENT: Authorities are investigating after photos emerged allegedly showing dead and dying koalas in a barren field on a Victorian property that has been logged.

Registered nurse Helen Oakley told Yahoo News Australia she spotted 60 displaced koalas on a property near Cape Bridgewater, and counted more than a dozen dead.

Ms Oakley said she has only managed to survey a small portion of the property, so she and a small team are spending their days walking up and down the rows of felled trees.

Split screen. Left - a wet koala sits in a pile of branches with a bare field behind it. Right - a dead koala on the ground.
The koala on the left was euthanised after it was discovered he had a broken arm. Many others have been found dead on the ground. Source: Supplied

“You can smell them, it’s smells like death,” she said.

“The whole block has been flattened.

“The surviving koalas are being brought down from trees and the vets are checking them for hydration and malnutrition as they’re all covered in ticks.

“A lot of them have been euthanised.”

A koala in a pile of logs and leaves.
A displaced koala sits in a pile of logs in Portland. Source: Supplied

Ms Oakley first spotted displaced koalas from the road on Wednesday morning.

Portland resident Janet Bruckner said she joined Ms Oakley at the property and the Victorian department of environment (DELWP) was then contacted.

A DELWP spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia this morning that they are investigating.

‘They’ve realised the scale of it’

A small team of carers and two vets were sent out to help manage the situation on Friday, but Ms Bruckner believes the scale of the situation is more than they can manage.

A koala is given fluids via a syringe. It is wrapped up in a blanket.
A dehydrated koala is given fluids after it was found on a logged Cape Bridgewater property. Source: Supplied

She describes the situation as being “very confronting” and that a small exhausted team is working without regular breaks to provide treatment.

Ms Bruckner said she cannot understand how the Victorian government allowed this to happen and hopes increased public attention will lead to action.

“I think they’ve realised the scale of it,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“It’s got to a situation now where you just can’t have this sort of thing happening.

“It’s right on a busy tourist road. It should never have happened in the first place.”

Close up of the body of a koala sitting in a logged branch.
A koala covered in flies was found amongst the logged trees. Source: Supplied

A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they regularly treat koalas with horrific injuries hurt during logging in the Gippsland region, but the scale of this operation is greater.

Wet koala with broken arm found on property

Ms Oakley said she had been warned by other carers not to post anything online about the situation, but a young, soaking wet koala with a broken arm tipped her over the edge.

A large logged field against a grey sky in Cape Bridgewater
Koala habitat in Cape Bridgewater, Victoria, that was bulldozed for timber. Source: Supplied

“It just got too much after me finding this koala that was sitting in the row, sitting up there with a broken arm,” she said.

“Then I walked back and got him a branch of fresh gum leaves and climbed upon the pile to give it to him.

“Two guys brought him down but I believe he was then put down.

“I’ve never seen so many koalas in a concentrated area like this and so much death and smell.

“I started thinking if these were humans what this would be like and I just lost it.”

‘Extremely concerned about these reports’

A DELWP spokesperson issued a statement to Yahoo News Australia outlining their response.

“We are extremely concerned about these reports of a koala population on private land near Cape Bridgewater where animals are showing signs of starvation and injury,” the spokesperson said.

”The Conservation Regulator is currently investigating this matter, with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

”If this is found to be due to deliberate human action, we expect the Conservator Regular to act swiftly against those responsible.

”Wildlife welfare assessment and triage will continue with qualified carers and vets. DELWP will be onsite ensuring resources and expertise is available to continue to care for wildlife injured.

”DELWP was onsite on Friday assessing animals along with local wildlife carers. A number of animals were removed and were assessed and are now being cared for by local rehabilitation volunteers.

”Animals that were considered to not require immediate removal were provided with food and water. DELWP are working with the relevant parties on the long term requirements for the remaining koalas, this may include translocation to suitable sites.”

A triage team works to save dying koalas at Cape Bridgewater. Source: Supplied
A triage team works to save dying koalas at Cape Bridgewater. Source: Supplied

The Wildlife Act 1975 protects Australian native animals and DELWP advises that killing, harassing or disturbing wildlife can attract a penalty of up to $8000.

They have asked that members of the public who see animals that appear to be injured or distressed as a result of the alleged incident at Portland should call ‪1300 356 687‬.

To report other injured wildlife, people can contact DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or Wildlife Victoria on ‪(03) 8400 7300‬.

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