Wildlife officers and vets will carry out a two-week program of fertility control and health checks to manage the koala population in Cape Otway from today.
The program targets female koalas for capture and fertility control hormone implants to manage breeding rates and address overpopulation this upcoming spring and summer.
The health of all captured koalas will be assessed and koalas fit for release will be returned to their home range. Any unhealthy koalas deemed too sick to survive release or which have other serious health issues, will be humanely euthanised to prevent further suffering.
Most back young will be independent of their mothers this time of year. However, where female koalas in poor health are euthanised for human reasons, we will endeavour to re-home orphaned dependent back young with suitably qualified wildlife parks or zoos.
The program will be delivered by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and involves small teams of trained professionals including experienced koala catchers and veterinarians.
In the past 12 months, DELWP has conducted a koala health assessment in May 2015, a koala welfare intervention and trial translocation in September and a four-week large scale translocation of 448 koalas to the Cape Otway National Park in November and December 2015.
Evidence indicates that the translocation reduced browsing pressure for the remaining koalas and their habitat at Cape Otway over summer.
Field monitoring completed in February 2016 indicated that the koala density in some parts of Cape Otway is still high. An estimated 600 koalas remain in 120 hectares of Manna Gum and some mixed Eucalypt woodland at Cape Otway.
Locations with high koala density will be targeted during this program and the focus will be on private properties where koala densities are now reaching up to 11 per hectare.
Over-abundance of koalas at Cape Otway is a complex long-term issue brought about by their love of Manna Gums, their reluctance to change food source, favourable climatic conditions and an absence of predators.
DELWP has commissioned the Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) to conduct a research project on the carrying capacity and habitat health of Manna Gum dominated areas of the region.
Results from this research will enable DELWP to plan koala management actions at Cape Otway and other forest areas in south west Victoria into the future.
Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water Lisa Neville
"The welfare of koalas is our first priority, and this two-week program is aimed at achieving a healthy native forest and a sustainable population of healthy koalas at Cape Otway."
“I’d like to thank the Cape Otway community, especially local landowners, businesses, the Conservation Ecology Centre and other research partners, for working with us and providing local knowledge and support."
Reviewed 19 August 2020