Victorian wildlife advocates call for a halt to blue gum harvesting to protect koalas

Wildlife advocates are calling for an immediate halt to the harvesting of blue gum plantations across Victoria, to protect koalas.

Jess Robertson, president of Ballarat Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, says she is concerned about the thousands of koalas living on the farms.

“We are at a turning point,” she said. “It’s a crisis because all the blue gum is falling off now.”

According to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), there are approximately 47,000 koalas living on blue gum farms across the state.

Blue gum is grown to supply both softwoods and hardwoods on large plantations in central Victoria and Gippsland, although most are located in the “green triangle” of southwest Victoria.

Each year, an estimated 8000-10000 hectares of blue gum are harvested in that part of the state.

Calls to stop the harvest

Robertson says she recently advised management on how to protect koalas.

“It’s a problem they don’t know how to solve,” Robertson said.

Woman wearing red lipstick and smiling at the camera while out in nature
Wildlife caregiver Jess Robertson is calling for stronger action to protect koalas on blue gum farms.(Supplied: Jessica Robertson)

“We are calling for an immediate halt to all blue gum harvesting until a management plan is in place… and a solution is found for those koalas.”

Kate Gavens, Senior Conservation Organizer, said farm operators must obtain permission from the regulator to harvest where the koalas are.

They should also consult an ecologist to determine how to “manage” the koala.

“[It includes] Gavins said training koala monitors on site, keeping plants where koalas spot, and taking action if you spot a koala.”

A small piece of pale green trees
Planters should leave some trees around the koala if it is spotted to avoid infestation.(Supplied: Jessica Robertson)

“It’s a long-term industry in Australia, so since we’re seeing harvested areas, we’re also seeing areas being replaced,” Gavins said.

“The work that is done with ecologists is to determine where there is an opportunity for koalas to relocate to nearby vegetation.”

scattered habitats

But the woman said the “vegetation next door” is dwindling, leaving koalas vulnerable.

“The only vegetation they have is in national parks and state parks, the rest of the vegetation is scattered and fragmented,” Ms Robertson said.

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Shane koalas were taken by wildlife caregivers after being injured in southwest Victoria(Supplied: Jessica Robertson)

“National parks are full of koalas, and they really have large numbers. And what kind of overabundance is [DELWP] It needs control.”

Wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Adrian Lavinia, said the main cause of injury to koalas in her care was ‘overwhelmingly’ due to cars.

She said the animals “may have been crossing the road at the time when a car was quickly approaching”.

“Maybe they are struggling to get a source of food – they have to move – and they are vulnerable to being hit by a car.

“It’s a very sad picture that we see most of the time.”

Stronger protection

Western Victoria MP and Animal Justice Party member Andy Medik has backed calls for better protection.

In contrast to New South Wales and southern Queensland, Victoria’s robust koala population of 450,000 has not been identified as endangered.

But Mr. Medec worries that if tree harvesting continues without additional protection for marsupials, the population will decline.

“Leadership has to come from top to bottom – the minister, the government,” Medic said.

“They all need to step back and listen to what the caregivers, rescue workers and officers are saying and stop cutting down trees.

Then they have to formulate an appropriate strategy that is not only for the next 12 months but will be long-term.

Last week, the Victorian Greens announced a $1 billion Zero Extinction Fund to protect Victoria’s threatened species.

A Victorian government spokesperson said: “We have strengthened koala protection rules on blue gum farms that set out minimum mandatory requirements for managing koalas during harvests.”

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