The koala may be one of the most iconic Australian animals, but an imperiled population may be subjected to a cull in the coming weeks amid a marked decline in the animals’ food source.
The koala population has exploded at Cape Otway, a popular tourist destination in Australia known for the animals, according to the Washington Post. Unfortunately, Manna gum leaves, a staple food source for the koalas, are in short supply in the region, leading to fears that the animals may be starving.
— J. Freedom du Lac (@jfdulac) May 30, 2015
Officials say that they will conduct a health assessment of the koala colony at Cape Otway, and they plan to implant females of the species with birth control. Concurrently, the weakest and sickest of the koalas will be put down, euthanized in the name of protecting the rest of their species.
“Koala welfare and habitat health continue to be our top priorities,” the state’s environmental department asserted. “Any unhealthy koalas, which are deemed too sick to survive release, will be humanely euthanized to prevent further suffering.”
— The Australian (@australian) May 25, 2015
The cull would not be the first that Australian officials have carried out against the ever-growing koala population. As Newsweek reports, a nationwide koala cull took place between 2013 and 2014, as officials stated that the animals were outgrowing their food resources. Dr. Jack Pascoe, of the Conservation Ecology Center, asserted that the koala’s actions were highly detrimental to the local environment.
“An imbalance in the ecosystem led to a catastrophe – koalas were, through no fault of their own – eating away their habitat.”
— HRH Terry Australis (@AustralisTerry) May 26, 2015
The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) spoke out against the proposed cull, laying the blame for the ecological mess in Cape Otway at the feet of government mismanagement. They asserted that culling the koalas, which were intentionally moved into the region in the 1980s to boost tourism, should not be a viable option.
“It is a complex problem and there are no easy fixes,” Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart said. “It is not over population of Koalas; it is under population of trees and linked habitats.”
One koala can require as much as a hectare of land to survive, yet as the Inquisitr previously reported, the population of koalas in Cape Otway spiked at 20 per hectare before dropping to a level of 11. The AKF currently estimates that there are 80,000 koalas living in Australia.
[Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images]