#AceNewsReport – May.21: A south-west Victorian koala population is being moved from its Cape Otway home for the eighth time in six years after eating its way through the local manna gum habitat.
MELBOURNE: Koalas removed from south-west forest after eating themselves out of house and home: The koala population in the Great Ocean Road town, three hours’ west of Melbourne, boomed in the mid-2000s and quickly outgrew its food source, resulting in the secret culling of 700 koalas in 2015 due to “overpopulation issues”.
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The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has conducted several relocation programs in the years since in an attempt to control koala population numbers and let the native manna gum habitat regenerate.
As a result, the Cape Otway population was brought from a peak of 13.9 koalas per hectare to a low of 1.8 koalas per hectare in March 2018.
However, that number has jumped again, back to 2.75 koalas per hectare, meaning approximately 330 koalas currently call the 120 hectares of manna gum at Cape Otway home.
DELWP said a sustainable koala density was approximately one koala per hectare for mixed eucalyptus forests.
Can’t stop, won’t stop eating
One of the main issues facing wildlife officers in Cape Otway is the fact the koalas will not stop eating the manna gums.
Cape Otway provides a perfect climate for the cuddly marsupial along with a lack of predators and hunting, which has allowed the population numbers to climb.
However, that perfect existence comes at the cost of the manna gum population, which is being over-browsed to the point of tree death.
“Koalas eat up to a kilogram of gum leaves every day,” DELWP management officer Wes Burns said.
“There is an abundance of koalas in the Cape Otway area, and it has led to the koalas being in poor condition due to them not being able to get enough food.”
Wildlife officers will spend the next two weeks inspecting and moving koalas from Cape Otway to the Great Otway National Park, and another habitat near Lorne.
The females will be fitted with a fertility control device in an attempt to limit population numbers, while any that are deemed in poor condition will be humanely euthanased.
The department’s most recent inspection at Cape Otway saw 133 female koalas inserted with fertility control measures and 130 koalas taken to the Great Otway National Park.
Thirteen koalas inspected were deemed in poor condition and humanely euthanased.
“By reducing koala numbers in Cape Otway woodland we’re both ensuring the health of the koala population and the health of their habitat,” Mr Burns said.
“While the overall koala and habitat health at Cape Otway has improved in recent years, further programs are needed to continue to manage the koala population.”
The department is targeting areas of forest with the highest koala density and declining canopy cover, delivering any orphaned young koalas to an authorised wildlife shelter, to be hand-raised until independent enough to be released back to its original home range.
#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: May.21: 2021:
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