About 700 koalas have been covertly killed off because overpopulation had led to the animals starving, an official said Wednesday.
The Australian Koala Foundation has criticised the move by Australian authorities, calling it “a gross mismanagement.”
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The Foundation, which estimates there are now less than 100,000 of the unique animals left in the wild, blamed long-term mismanagement for the deaths at Cape Otway.
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“What they have done is shocking,” said chief executive Deborah Tabart.
“Why did they let it happen in the first place? I think the government should hang its head in shame.”
RT report: Koalas have been killed in the Cape Otway area over 2013 and 2014, Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville confirmed.
“The intervention was necessary to prevent suffering of koalas because they weren’t able to find enough food. Population densities were reaching up to 20 koalas per hectare at Cape Otway,” Neville stated, as cited by AFP.
The minister added that she couldn’t rule out further killings, and was seeking advice on how to deal with the problem.
“[The number of animals] continues to increase and that’s why we need to have a look at a koala management strategy to see whether we can reduce that population growth which continues at a very fast pace,” Neville also said.
“The Australian government should hang its head in shame, for allowing a secret cull of koalas,” the Koala Foundation said in a statement on its website.
Australians took to Twitter to express their sadness and disbelief at the killings.
Moving koalas can prove quite difficult, even if their habitat becomes unsuitable. They get used to a place, and may die anyway at their new home.
“Experience suggests that moving these koalas does not work and that can in fact cause even greater suffering,” Neville told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Frank Fotinas, head of the Bimbi Park Caravan Park at Cape Otway, said the koalas were euthanized because many were sick or dying from starvation and natural causes.
“The whole of the cape smelled of dead koalas. It smelled like death,” he told the ABC.