In the forests around Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, a Koala stops to look at my friends and I. It’s likely that he’s a new resident to the Lorne area after Wildlife officers from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) relocated about 400 koalas from Cape Otway to Lorne as part of a plan to manage a huge spike in the animal’s population in the area.
At Cape Otway, which is 76 km (47.2 miles) from Lorne, Koalas numbers were so out of control that starvation became an issue. The animals were stripping bare vast areas of manna gum trees killing their habitat and leaving them without sufficient food resources. Relocating healthy Koalas to Lorne was seen as a solution after efforts to plant more than 70,000 extra manna gum trees at Cape Otway failed to stop the animals from going hungry.
Sadly, despite being considered in danger in some parts of Australia, almost 800 starving koalas have been put down at Cape Otway in the past two years with locals also reporting that it was not uncommon to come across dead koalas that had likely starved. The move to put down the animals was not popular and was dubbed a “secret cull” by the Australian Koala Foundation.
Previous Koala relocations haven’t had much success, however, it’s thought that the relatively short distance of this relocation might be successful after research showed that relocating the animals to other states, where their numbers are in decline, have failed due to the animals not adapting to the significant environmental changes.
In moving the koalas to more diverse forests around Lorne, and implanting some female koalas with birth control, it’s hoped that the animals will adapt to their new home and thrive in healthy numbers while at the same time giving Cape Otway’s manna gum trees time to recover.