Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A plague of Koalas

They should allow the koalas to be captured and exported. That would be the humane solution

KOALA management on Kangaroo Island is costing up to $1 million a year, prompting calls from a parliamentary committee to drastically cut their numbers.

A top-level parliamentary committee report on the issue says it is "concerned at the high cost of the present management program".
It has been estimated that more than $5 million has been spent since the program began in 1997.

The Natural Resources Committee describes the koalas as "pests" and says "a sustainable solution must be found".

Committee member and Democrat Sandra Kanck said humane culling was the solution.

But new Environment Minister Jay Weatherill said the density of the koala population had been reduced to sustainable levels and the "current sterilisation and relocation program is being successful".

"The Government has no intention of commencing any culling," he said.

Evidence presented to the committee estimates between 22,000 and 30,000 koalas remain on the island. It was told up to 70 per cent of those would need to be sterilised and one-third relocated costing up to $1 million a year.

Nearly 3500 koalas have been moved from the island since 1997 and more than 7700 sterilised. This year, 162 sterilised koalas have gone to the South East.

Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board member Fraser Vickery told the committee the current management program was ineffective.

He said culling was "an obvious solution".

But he said surveys of visitors to the island indicated there would be "a massive resistance by American, Canadian and other visitors" if a culling program was begun.

Ms Kanck said she did not believe the state "should allow Japanese tourists to determine this state's environmental policies".

"If they start calling for boycotts then I think that what we need to do is look them straight in the eye and say one word to them – whales," she said.

The committee has warned it may launch another inquiry into the handling of the island's koala problem.


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