Victorian authorities 'disappointed' koalas missed before they set forest on fire

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

“Disappointed” is how Victorian authorities have described their failure to notice koalas were living in a forest they set on fire.

This week, Yahoo News Australia received multiple reports of dead and dying koalas located in the Mount Richmond National Park, following a planned burn by the Department of Environment (DELWP).

Two animals were incinerated to death, and a pair were later euthanised due to extensive burns.

Two koalas died at the scene, and another pair were later euthanised due to their burns. Source: Supplied / Anthony Amis
Two koalas died at the scene, and another pair were later euthanised due to their burns. Source: Supplied / Anthony Amis

DELWP has since confirmed its crews identified two deceased koalas and seven healthy animals in the burn area. It is unclear whether they are in addition to the pair found earlier by locals.

“Expert wildlife officers conduct checks before and after planned burns and are on site during the burn,” they said in a statement.

“We are disappointed we did not identify all koalas in this instance and are undertaking a review.

“We implemented protection measures prior to the delivery of the planned burn, including checking the burn perimeter prior to ignition and protecting several trees with koalas in them.

“The way we implement planned burns is also designed to provide safe escape corridors for wildlife.”

Koalas groaning in pain after being scorched in government burn

On Sunday night witnesses to the incident told Yahoo News Australia the koalas had been found groaning in pain, after suffering without treatment for days.

"One in particular, his burns were shocking. Absolutely shocking," they said.

"His back feet were burned, all the fur on his ears was singed."

The ground was still smouldering on Tuesday, a week after the fires were lit. Source: Helen Oakley
The ground was still smouldering on Tuesday, a week after the fires were lit. Source: Helen Oakley

They questioned how authorities could have missed the injured koalas as the trees were no taller than a single storey house and denuded of leaves following the burn.

The animals were found close to the Bridgewater Track, and were impacted by two days of burning which began on Monday May 23.

In total, 317 hectares were scorched by authorities during a burn intended to reduce overall fuel loads.

'Bloody disgusting': Local woman outraged by state of national park

One local, Helen Oakley, who visited the area on Tuesday was left angered by the state of the area, following the burn.

Ms Oakley saw a number of koalas within the national park on Tuesday. Source: Helen Oakley
Ms Oakley saw a number of koalas within the national park on Tuesday. Source: Helen Oakley

"It's bloody disgusting seeing such destruction done in a national park," she said.

Without getting close to the burn zone, Ms Oakley identified five koalas in trees within the park.

Despite rain and hail, the ground was continuing to smoulder a week after what DELWP described a a "low-intensity" burn was lit.

DELWP has indicated their Chief Fire Officer will meet with stakeholders to discuss the fire and its impact on wildlife.

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