Sad reason koalas were found dumped inside cardboard boxes beside country road

The deaths were caused by a major problem impacting wildlife across Australia.

Authorities have closed an investigation into the strange discovery of two rotting koalas near a dirt road on the outskirts of a coastal Aussie town. Local wildlife advocates had described the find as “suspicious” because the animals had been intentionally placed on top of cardboard boxes.

Baked in the sun for hours, the grotesque site left the 77-year-old man who stumbled across them in Portland, Victoria holding back tears. “It was really bad, really bad,” he told Yahoo News at the time.

While the state of the animals prevented necropsies from being performed to confirm the cause of death, authorities believe they know what killed them. It’s suspected the cause was not intentional as some wildlife advocates initially feared, but rather that they fell victim to another major problem harming Australia’s wildlife.

Koalas in cardboard boxes lying next to a dirt road in Portland.
Two dead koalas were discovered on Thistle Road in Portland on Thursday. A third animal was found 100 metres away on Tuesday. Source: Supplied

Officers from Victoria’s Conservation Regulator, a government agency responsible for investigating wildlife crimes, interviewed witnesses and recovered the bodies after the January 5 discovery. It's believed the two koalas died as a result of unintentional road collisions in Portland on the state's southwest coast, and their bodies were later moved off the road.

“The Conservation Regulator takes all allegations of wildlife crime seriously, and we appreciate the public concerns and cooperation in this case. The information provided to us by the community was extremely helpful in reaching a conclusion,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement.

How vehicle strikes are harming Australia's wildlife

While roadkill is less sensational than actual wildlife crimes, the deaths highlight how prevalent the problem is.

In total, three koalas were found at the Portland site within a week. All were seen on Thistle Road, a dirt thoroughfare near the town’s aluminium smelter. Two were found on cardboard, and a third animal was discovered on the ground 100 metres away.

In regions where koalas are abundant, they are frequently killed by trucks and cars travelling to their destination at high speed. At Gordon, 230 km northeast of Portland, nine koalas were found dead along a small stretch of the Western Freeway this year.

The problem is not confined to Victoria. Appin Road which runs from Sydney’s southwest to the south coast has been branded the state’s “killing corridor” due to the large number of koalas and other wildlife killed there.

Insurance data reveals wildlife falling victims to car strikes

Wildlife frequently falls victim to car strikes after habitat in the region is removed and animals venture into new areas. A property in Gordon near where the koalas were found had recently been harvested for timber, while Appin Road stretches through a known koala-corridor that is being developed for housing.

It’s not just koalas which fall victim to car strikes. Most motor vehicle claims involving wildlife occur after a kangaroo is struck. Data collected by insurer IAG and provided to Yahoo found the number of claims dramatically increased in states when coronavirus pandemic lockdowns that had prevented long distance travel were lifted.

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