01 August, 2011

Koalas suffering from logging: inquiry

The Age, August 1, 2011 - 5:16PM

A Victorian population of koalas is being threatened by logging, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Friends of the Earth is calling for the Strzelecki koala to be recognised as a threatened species because its natural food source is being eroded.

Land use researcher Anthony Amis from Friends of the Earth says mountain ash trees felled in the Strzelecki Ranges in South Gippsland are being replaced by shining gums in plantation areas after harvest.

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"Mountain ash is a koala feed source, shining gum is not," Mr Amis told the hearing today.

A significant number of koalas in the region also died in the Black Saturday bushfires and many of the animals continued to suffer stress-related conditions from the fires, the inquiry heard.

"It is probably beyond the ability of our environment groups to pull together the best science in Australia to save this animal," Friends of the Earth said in its submission to the inquiry.

"It would probably require several hundred thousand dollars and a dedicated team to properly understand what is happening on the ground with this animal."

The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications is examining the status, health and sustainability of Australia's koala population.

Asked by Senator Doug Cameron whether forestry and koalas could co-exist, Mr Amis said: "In a dream they probably could.

"I think if you had minimal logging, say took out a couple of trees per hectare, potentially it could work.

"But the demands of industry are to knock out entire catchment areas."

Hancock Victorian Plantations chief executive Linda Sewell said the company, which operates about 45,000 hectares of plantation forest in the Strzelecki Ranges, provides corridors for koala movement to native areas.

Ms Sewell said an operating standard requires workers to conduct a "visual" assessment of any koalas before logging periods, and if koalas are found during harvesting, operations are temporarily suspended while koalas move through the logging area.

The committee is due to report to the findings of the inquiry by August 24.


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