At a Victorian tree plantation, sixteen koalas have perished, and the cause of death is unknown.
A probe was started by Victoria’s conservation agency after 13 koalas’ deaths were discovered on a plantation on June 14. According to the regulator, the owner of the plantation informed it of the deaths.
Since then, three more koalas’ remains have been discovered in an area of the property that hasn’t been harvested, with varying degrees of decomposition ranging from two weeks to 12 months, the regulator reported on Monday.
The results of necropsies have so far been unable to identify a certain cause of death. X-rays of the bodies revealed no signs of damage, such as fractures or shattered bones. Additionally, there was no sign of gunshots.
The agency stated the lack of trauma and the pathology findings together suggested the fatalities may be the consequence of “environmental factors” as it continues to evaluate a variety of potential reasons.
The regulatory operations director, Ash Bunce, issued a statement saying, “We are following all lines of inquiry in our investigation to ascertain what happened to these koalas.”
In 2020, it was predicted that there would be 413,000 koalas living throughout Victoria. It’s estimated that the Barwon South West, Gippsland, and Hume regions are home to about 80% of them.
Based on 15 years of combined counts, the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning estimated that 15,000 koalas, or 4% of the state’s population, were impacted by the 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires.
In February, koala numbers in Queensland, New South Wales, and the ACT were upgraded from vulnerable to endangered category; however, they are not considered threatened in Victoria and South Australia.
Koalas are nonetheless protected by Victoria’s Wildlife Act. In Victoria, the highest penalty for intentionally murdering a koala is a $9,246 fine and/or six months in jail.
Lead Image: About 413,000 koalas were estimated to be living across Victoria in 2020. The bodies of 16 koalas have been found at a tree plantation in the state since June. Photograph: Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images. This article was first published by The Guardian on 11 July 2022.
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