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Koala plague in Australia: weak animals are euthanized

Sydney - Australian authorities take action against a koala plague in the south-west of the country. Weak or sick animals are killed to save the healthy marsupials from starvation. Park rangers are on duty in the forests of the Cape Otway region southwest of Melbourne.

On the first day of the two-week measure, 48 koalas were examined and six of them were euthanized, said operations manager Jim O'Brien on Tuesday. They were too weak to survive in the wild.

20 animals per hectare

"It's tragic and we feel terrible about it, but we have to do it so the other koalas can survive," said a senior park ranger from the Victoria State Department of the Environment. According to the authorities, there are now around 20 koalas per hectare in the region. Normal is one animal per hectare.

The koalas have grazed the leaves of their favorite eucalyptus trees in the region, and many animals are in danger of starvation. In general, according to the local center for environmental protection, koalas can eat leaves of up to 20 different eucalyptus species. In the affected area, however, the animals only fed on one species of tree. With this they destroyed their source of food, as a spokeswoman for the center said.

In the current operation, sick koalas are euthanized, females would be given contraceptives, the authorities announced. Around 40 animals were to be relocated. Around 700 koalas have been killed in Cape Otway in the past two years. There are currently around 1,000 animals living there, as O'Brien reported.

Koala is considered a pest

Since 2001 the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) has been on the official Australian list of regional pests - in the company of termites, voracious starfish and the carnivorous kingfisher Kookaburra (Laughing Hans).

The koalas were settled in the southwest region in the 1980s. There were no bush fires or natural enemies, the population exploded. The situation on the east coast of Australia is completely different: Koala numbers are falling dramatically there, especially in Queensland and New South Wales. Much vegetation is being lost due to the expansion of coastal cities such as Sydney and Brisbane, and many of the slow animals are also run over by cars. (APA, September 22, 2015)