Motorists have struck and killed two koalas on a busy freeway, weeks after authorities rejected calls for a small colony living in a nearby plantation to be ferried to safety.
When timber workers began felling trees at the site in December, animal advocates had warned the four marsupials living there faced a “death sentence”. Because the plantation was surrounded by bare paddocks, they predicted the koalas would be struck by a truck or car while fleeing to the closest forest which lies on the other side of the road.
“It was absolutely a no-brainer that the koalas needed to be moved,” wildlife rescuer Jessica Robertson told Yahoo. She's now calling for Victoria's authorities to urgently tackle the ongoing roadkill problem on the notorious road to stem the tide of animal deaths.
Translocating wildlife remains a controversial practice in Victoria, although Queensland has successfully carried out at least one semi-successful operation.
Responding to pleas to move the koalas from the Gordon site, east of Ballarat, in December, state authorities argued moving them could result in “significant stress” and “poor animal welfare outcomes”. “We just don't know what wildlife is going to do, and they could move in any direction,” the state’s Conservation Regulator told local radio.
Both dead koalas were found within 500 metres of the plantation — the first was discovered on January 5, and the second on Wednesday. But it remains impossible to determine whether the koalas found dead beside the Western Freeway were the same animals recorded in surveys prior to the harvest being undertaken.
Although animals living in the plantation were monitored during the harvest, after its completion they were left to fend for themselves on small clusters of trees retained at the site. A strip of eucalyptus was also kept along the edge of the freeway, but rescuers are concerned they could be luring more koalas from the forest on the other side of the road.
Now animal rescuers want the state government to intervene, and create a permanent solution to the road "carnage".
Freeway an ongoing threat to koalas
At least four koalas have been found dead near the plantation in the 12 months leading up to the harvest. The marsupials would regularly cross the busy stretch of road to reach the plantation, so wildlife advocates did not oppose it being cut down.
With wildlife deaths ongoing, Robertson is urging Victoria’s government to intervene and create a safe solution so kangaroos, wallabies and koalas can safely cross.
“It’s carnage on that stretch of freeway,” she said. “Yesterday rescuers pouch checked five dead wallabies and three roos between Gordon and Ballan. That stretch of freeway is a wildlife corridor. Always has been always will be, until they build a bridge over it.”
The Conservation Regulator was notified by the plantation owner Central Highlands Water on December 27 that the harvest had been completed by timber company Midway. When contacted about the matter in December, Midway said it would not be commenting on the matter.
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