Logging resumes on Kangaroo Island after koala deaths

Koalas are being injured on Kangaroo Island because of logging operations.

Koalas are being injured on Kangaroo Island because of logging operations. Photo: AAP

Loggers have been given the go-ahead to resume tree-felling operations after shocking footage showed koalas falling to their deaths on one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations

The South Australian government halted logging on Kangaroo Island after the videos captured by whistleblowers came to light earlier in March.

Environment Minister Susan Close on Monday approved the resumption of tree harvesting after timber company AAG Investment Management submitted a new koala management plan which it claims will prevent further deaths.

“The footage of koalas being killed and injured in timber plantations on Kangaroo Island shocked our community and required an immediate response from government,” Close said.

“This is why plantation owners now require an improved koala management plan before they can continue to remove the invasive Tasmanian blue gums from the island.”

The highly flammable blue gums, which are not native to Kangaroo Island, contributed to the devastating fires that torched half the island and an estimated 30,000 koalas in 2020.

Their removal is seen as essential by residents.

But the koala population has rebounded since the fire and large numbers now inhabit the plantations.

The management plan requires loggers to strengthen koala spotting resources, reporting and relationships with vets and wildlife carers.

The company must also create different strategies between structurally stable plantations and those unsafe due to fire risk.

The environment department will conduct unannounced site visits to monitor the plan’s effectiveness over the next six months.

AAG said it had been clearing the trees in accordance with agreed environmental practices and halted logging when the footage came to light.

Close said an investigation into possible koala cruelty is ongoing, as is work on a broader management plan for koalas on the island.

The long-term future of the koalas is still unclear.

As the animals’ food resources deplete as a result of plantation forest being returned to agricultural land, there are fears the koala population could starve.

“The potential feed resource for koalas will be limited to those areas left unharvested such as native bush areas, wet areas and not-for-agriculture areas,” AAG said in its management plan.

“There will necessarily be significant pressure placed on the remaining koala population.”

The company said neither private landowners nor the environment department expressed a strong interest in re-homing koalas on or off the island given “considerable challenges and animal welfare considerations”.


Topics: koalas
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