Koalas lose to plantation industry in Burke's fauna listings

Monday, 30 April 2012 MEDIA RELEASE

Environmental organisations Friends of the Earth and Friends of Gippsland Bush have slammed Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke's failure to list Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges koala as endangered or vulnerable.
 
“All the evidence is pointing to a very bleak future for the Strzelecki Koala, which has lost 50 percent of its habitat in the past decade due to logging and fire. If this habitat loss is not endangering the Strzelecki koala, then the Minister's view must be very blinkered,” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Anthony Amis.
 
"Almost all of Victoria's koala populations are the result of translocations, sourced from a handful of koalas sent to French Island from South Gippsland in the 1880's. Effectively these koalas have low genetic diversity compared to the only non translocated koala population which is based in the Strzelecki Ranges."
 
Mr Amis said "The genetically superior Strzelecki koala holds the key to the preservation of the species in Victoria, because translocated koalas suffer from a range of problems, many of which are the result of inbreeding. The Strzelecki koala does not suffer from the problems of inbreeding which makes it more robust than its translocated cousins. “Its population is clearly unique in the context of Victorian and South Australian koalas. This simple fact appears to have eluded the Minister.”
 
"Almost the entire habitat of the Strzelecki koala is in private hands. Hancock Victorian Plantations has converted close to 10,000ha of koala habitat over the past 14 years, and the tragic 2009 Churchill and Boolarra bushfires burnt out approximately 20,000ha of koala habitat. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Strzelecki koalas were killed during those fires. After 14 years of logging key koala habitat, Hancock Victorian Plantations still do not have a koala management plan, and 75% of logs from the Strzelecki Ranges end up at Maryvale Pulp Mill owned by Nippon Paper."
 
"It is clearly inaccurate to water down the significance of the Strzelecki population by including it with other Victorian koala populations that have been translocated. The Strzelecki koala deserves to be treated as a separate management unit and accorded threatened status."
 
Suzie Zent from Friends of Gippsland Bush said “It is outrageous that federal, state and local governments, along with Hancock Victorian Plantations, have no idea about the existing population base of koalas in the Strzelecki Ranges. “Yet they do nothing to curb the ravages of the plantation industry that is destroying koala habitat. They also have provided no resources for koala population counts. How convenient for the loggers and the paper industry.”
 
Anthony Amis said, “The State Government wiped its hands clean of the Strzelecki koala by privatising almost its entire habitat to Hancock Victorian Plantations. Plans to plant thousands of trees as future koala habitat will in no way ameleriote what has been lost over the past decade due to logging and fire. Only two weeks ago Friends of the Earth and Friends of the Gippsland Bush witnessed hundreds of newly replanted trees in the Strzelecki Rainforest Reserve being incinerated in log dump burns by Hancock Victorian Plantations.”
 
For comment
Anthony Amis
Friends of the Earth Melbourne - 0425 841 564
anthonyamis@hotmail.com
 
Suzie Zent
Friends of Gippsland Bush - 5169 1588
susiezent@skymesh.com.au