Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

Dozens of koalas killed and maimed by bulldozers on Australian plantation

Hiker raises alarm after discovering dead and distressed marsupials in south-west Victoria

One of the injured koalas is shown in a picture shared by Animals Australia. Twitter / @AnimalsAus
One of the injured koalas is shown in a picture shared by Animals Australia. Twitter / @AnimalsAus

Animal welfare campaigners in Australia expressed alarm after dozens of koalas were killed and maimed by bulldozers at a tree plantation in south-west Victoria.

The state government is investigating the incident after local resident Helen Oakley discovered the dead and distressed marsupials while she was hiking on Wednesday. Her tearful video from the scene was shared widely on Facebook.

Ms Oakley found 10 dead koalas on the property and told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that dozens more were trapped on remaining stands of trees.

"Some of them have been fairly decomposed, so they've been there for a while," she said. "But we're finding them in the rows of pushed up blue gums [on the ground], sitting there – I found one yesterday with a broken arm."

At least 25 injured koalas were euthanised, according to Victoria's Department of Environment, which counted 120 live animals at the site.

The surviving koalas would be "rehabilitated at a later stage," incident controller Andrew Pritchard told the ABC.

The Animals Australia charity said it had flown in a team of volunteer vets to examine and care for the koalas.

The charity said it appeared that whoever was responsible for clearing the land had breached the law, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

"During this time of devastating habitat loss, it will come as no surprise that koalas are seeking refuge in commercial blue-gum plantations. The logging of these forests then destroys precious habitat," Animals Australia said on Twitter.

"By law, the companies that own these plantations must provide koala ‘spotters’ to identify koalas in trees before logging commences, so that animals can be safely removed and relocated.

"There is also a legal responsibility to ensure the welfare of koalas after logging has ceased."

An investigation is under way.

"It is unclear as yet who bulldozed the trees with the koalas apparently still in them, but it is absolutely certain that this was not a plantation or a forestry company," Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Ross Hampton told Melbourne newspaper The Age.

"We support all those calling for the full force of the law to be applied to the perpetrator."

The plight of Australia's wildlife made world headlines last month as countless images of injured and dead koalas came to symbolise the months-long bushfire crisis that has burnt through vast wilderness areas.

More than one billion animals are estimated to have died in the fires.

Updated: February 2, 2020 03:51 PM

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