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Pandora’s Box: Koalas in Victoria

Life on land

“Unfortunately, the event is invite-only and is now at capacity”. Dr. Liz Walker, RSPCA

Peter and Andrea Hylands

December 10, 2023

Given the difficulty of getting information about Koalas in Victoria we found our exclusion from the opening media launch of the Koala Hospital somewhat odd, particularly so as we had made considerable contributions to the RSPCA in Victoria, including developing a regional animal shelter in Victoria, which the RSPCA then decided to close. So we understand the embarrassment of having us present, but this has nothing to do with Koalas.

Our concerns about Koalas in Victoria include overstated population estimates, blocking of rescues, including from firegrounds, with DELWP at the time of the 2019-2020 bushfires claiming that Koalas were ‘overabundant’ and should not be rescued from public lands. Secretive killing of Koalas by the Victorian Government looks to be extensive and killing rates for those Koalas subjected to health checks, seemed to have risen alarmingly. There are also very significant issues with Koalas and Blue Gum plantations which have never been resolved. The Government’s attitudes to Koalas mirror those directed at Kangaroos and other native wildlife. So this is just a short look at what is happening.

Messages coming from the Victorian Government are confusing. There are too many, Koalas, don’t rescue them, and from the Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, at the time of the opening of the new hospital:

“We’re protecting our native wildlife from the threat of bushfire, part of our record investment into Victoria’s precious biodiversity”.
"It's a new ward for Koalas that are injured either through climate change or bushfires or indeed injured in other ways. The objective is not only for those Koalas to continue to stay alive but to hopefully be able to thrive and prosper”.

So here is the background to the Koala Hospital as described by the Zoos own PR.

“Australia's devastating summer bushfires ravaged native species such as Koalas. The $1.84 million Koala Hospital will be built at Werribee Open Range Zoo, with a staggering $1.3 million coming from generous donations made to RSPCA Victoria during last summer’s devastating bushfires. The remaining costs will be funded through Zoos Victoria. Bushfire donations will pay for the new $1.84 million (or as reported elsewhere $2.55 million) Koala Hospital after thousands of the animals were killed in last summer's blazes. The facility will be based at Werribee Open Range Zoo in Melbourne's outer west”.

Subsequent attempts at obtaining information about government activities and changing attitudes to Koala rescue have also proved fruitless. The Victorian Government appear to be extremely sensitive about their activities in relation to Koalas. The Werribee Open Range Zoo will not agree for us to write a story about the Koala Hospital with images and interviews from there, we are not interested in publicity regarding the hospital.

“In respect to photography and filming on or around November 22, I’m afraid we are unable to accommodate this, as we have existing commitments with commercial channels regarding publicity of the hospital”.

The only information we now have from the zoo in relation to the Koala Hospital, is already in the public domain, as a result of a questions on notice request from a concerned politician in the Victorian Parliament. This is what we know (for the period 7 December 2022 to 8 August 2023).

  • 89 wild Koalas have been admitted;
  • 31 of the 89 have been returned to wildlife carers or zoo staff for release back into the wild;
  • 3 of the 89 are currently ongoing inpatients;
  • 55 of the 89 have died; and
  • The leading causes of admissions are road trauma (24) and deceased parents leaving orphans (14).

While it is admirable that the Koala Hospital is now functioning and rehabilitating Koalas we do not understand the need for secrecy surrounding the welfare of Koalas in the State of Victoria and the general confusion that has been part of the Koala situation in Victoria for a very long time.

More will follow as the zoo has now promised to send more detailed information.

Sadly, following our visit to Tower Hill, an individual from nearby Koroit, while filming himself in the act of doing so, ran over a Koala in the reserve. This is one of a number of cruel and deliberate run downs of native wildlife reported to us early in 2024. It will be interesting to see what action is taken regarding the Koala, particularly given that the evidence is a stark video of the cruelty. It may well have been one of the Koalas in our photos in this story.


There is so much silly spin and contradictory nonsense speak when it comes to trying to justify the killing of native wildlife in Australia, we are adding a new section to some stories. Welcome to Gobbledygook.

In December 2023 the Nature Knowledge Channel makes yet another visit to Budj Bim National Park and we locate one Koala. We are told by staff at Lake Condor that if we want to see Koalas, we should go to Tower Hill.

This from the Victorian Government 5 December 2023 and to the west of Melbourne:

“The Conservation Regulator is aware of community concern regarding a population of Koalas near the Gordon township. Translocation of wildlife can cause significant stress, injury and potential death to wildlife. That is a key reason the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action generally does not support translocation of non-threatened species. It was also a key factor in the Conservation Regulator decision not to issue a permit to translocate Koalas at the Gordon site. The alternative, leaving the Koalas in place during and after plantation harvest, allows them to stay or move naturally to their preferred location”.

The outcome, of this yet again appalling conduct by the Victorian Government and its refusal to allow the translocation of Koalas from the Gordon plantation, was always obvious. The outcome is precisely as we had expected it to be, Koalas struck and killed by motorists as they crossed the freeway (motorway) in attempted to escape the destruction of their habitat.

This is how the Victorian Government does not ‘stress’ Koalas.

“We recently partnered with local traditional owners to complete a second Koala health and fertility control programme across Budj Bim… Our wildlife officers partnered with traditional owners and Zoos Victoria vets during the programme”. Victorian Government DELWP now DEECA Barwon South West

Budj Bim National Park, 14 December 2022: A total of 93 Koalas were captured and underwent health checks over the six-day period. Of those checked, 58 were female and 35 male, with 34 healthy females fertility controlled. Given the over browsing occurring in some areas, unfortunately 28 koalas were assessed by experienced veterinarians to be in poor health and were humanely euthanised to prevent further suffering.

Budj Bim National Park, 9 - 22 May 2022: A total of 125 Koalas were captured and underwent health checks over the two-week period. Of those checked, 68 were female and 57 male, with 49 healthy females, fertility controlled. Given the over browsing occurring in some areas, unfortunately, 30 Koalas were assessed by experienced veterinarians to be in poor health and were humanely euthanised to prevent further suffering.

The Koala story in Victoria is a shocking one, The killing done amidst dubious claims that the species is thriving in the state, while it is endangered in other eastern states.

The largest Victorian Government Koala kill we know of occurred in 2013 and 2014 at Cape Otway. Despite efforts at secrecy from the Government, we all became aware of what was being done.

“Wildlife officials did three euthanasia sweeps to kill 686 Koalas in 2013 and 2014, in a covert campaign that was designed to avoid any backlash from green groups and the community”. Melbourne Age, March 2015

Since that time it appears that there have been several killing events, but at smaller scale.

Our frequent visits to Western Victoria, where there is a significant wood chip industry, included discussions with Alcoa’s (Portland Aluminium) media staff, at first quite open, and then closed down. So information is very hard to get. This is what we know and as reported by Michael Dahlstrom, the environment editor of yahoo!news under the headline 152 koalas killed in private forest by US company.

“The marsupials (152 Koalas) were destroyed under the supervision of independent experts during a series of checks undertaken since 2019 by the US-owned industrial giant. Over that time 348 were assessed and 79 females were given fertility control. The company now plans to encourage 120 Koalas living in forest near the smelter to relocate, bringing to an end ongoing concern about Koalas becoming sick from fluoride emissions”.

We might ask what has happened to 120 Koalas which were to be relocated?

Analysing what we can find out with others who have significant knowledge about Koalas, it appears that the Victorian Government’s ‘Koala health checks’ now result in a killing rate as high as 30 per cent of the Koalas they are removing from the tree tops. These ‘health checks’ prior to 2022 appear to have resulted in a killing rate of below 17 per cent with an average killing rate of 9 per cent from nine ‘health checks’ prior to 2022, including Cape Otway, where greater numbers of Koalas were checked.

“Koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Koalas are not endangered in Victoria but like all wildlife in Victoria, are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 (Wildlife Act). The welfare of all animals is also protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. These Acts refer to offences for disturbing, harming, possessing or destroying wildlife without the appropriate authority”. Victorian Government