Science

Dozens of koalas killed in Australian bush fires

Koala numbers are already dwindling - via Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of devastating bushfires, dozens more koalas have been found dead or injured on a blue gum plantation site in south-west Victoria, Australia.

Thousands of native flora, fauna and animal species have perished in the months since the bushfires began, which have been especially fierce in the state of Victoria. The blue gum tree – or Eucalyptus globulus – also suffered heavily in the fires and is an important habitat for the koala.

 The koala, already listed by the Australian Government as a ‘vulnerable’ species, has been the focus of many international outpourings of support, with donations flooding in for organisations such as WIRES and Port Macquarie Animal Hospital. 

Following this effort to help the koala and other native Australian species, the news of acres of blue gum trees demolished and dozens of koalas left to starve or die from their injuries has spread, with one local resident declaring in a viral video that Australia “should be ashamed.”

Around 80 surviving koalas, who had been foraging on the scarce remaining trees, have been treated by veterinarians for broken bones or starvation. Tragically, 25 koalas were put to sleep as their injuries were too severe. Although it’s not clear at this stage who is responsible, the logging industry claims that the contractor followed the rules for protecting the animals. Under Australian law, koalas must be relocated before trees are bulldozed and their welfare must be considered after logging has taken place. 

Investigations will be carried out in order to ascertain where the blame for this negligence lies, with the Department of Environment, Land, and Planning already on-site amidst volunteers from several animal charities. However, in light of increased awareness of the koala’s plight, this incident calls into question just how seriously the Australian Government and the Australian people take the protection of their indigenous species. The koala is an icon of Australia: it is instantly recognisable and uniquely Aussie. The loss of such a creature would not only be a tragedy for biodiversity – it would also be a tragedy for Australians and for Australian identity. 

Whilst legislation to protect the koala exists, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) believes that it is not properly enforced due to a lack of resources. It advocates for a Koala Protection Act, which will prevent logging and clearing of important trees.

To support the fight to protect the koala, you can donate through the AKF or volunteer organisations, or by adopting a koala from the AKF. Until enforceable legislation is put in place, the koalas will need every bit of help they can get.

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