Alleged ‘Koala Massacre’ Prompts Hundreds of Animal Cruelty Charges

Wire Service
By Wire Service
December 23, 2021Australia
Alleged ‘Koala Massacre’ Prompts Hundreds of Animal Cruelty Charges
Koalas are seen moving along the ground following a general health check at the Australian Reptile Park Coast in Sydney, on Aug. 27, 2020. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Australian authorities on Wednesday charged a landowner and two companies with more than 250 counts of animal cruelty over the deaths of dozens of koalas during a clearance operation last year.

According to a statement from Victoria state’s Conservation Regulator, 21 koalas were found dead and dozens more injured at a timber plantation in Cape Bridgewater, about 377 kilometers (234 miles) southwest of the state capital, Melbourne, in February 2020.

Authorities euthanized 49 of the wounded koalas, with many suffering from starvation, dehydration, and fractures, the statement said.

A man and an earthmoving company are accused of causing “unreasonable pain or suffering to dozens of koalas,” the statement said. “They are also charged with destroying koalas which are a protected species.”

They face a total of 126 charges each, including 18 aggravated cruelty charges for allegedly causing fatal injuries. One cruelty charge was laid against a separate contracting business for allegedly disturbing the koala population. The statement did not name those accused.

The maximum penalty for one charge of animal cruelty is nearly $78,000 for a business and more than $32,000 or 12 months’ jail for an individual.

In a statement at the time, Conservation group Friends of the Earth Australia called the incident a “koala massacre,” adding it was “alarmed that such wanton destruction and widespread death and injuries continue to plague the southwest Victorian plantation industry.”

Threats to Koalas

Koalas are a protected species in Australia and face a number of threats to their survival.

The country’s koala population suffered severe losses during the catastrophic bushfires of 2019, which destroyed more than 12 million acres (48,000 square kilometers) of land across the state of New South Wales alone.

More than 60,000 koalas either died, lost their habitat, or suffered injury from the flames, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Experts say the species is also facing localized extinctions because of the threat of chlamydia, which causes blindness and painful cysts in a koala’s reproductive tract that may lead to infertility or death.

In mid-2021, an Australian government report on the conservation status of koalas recommended the animal’s status be changed to “endangered” in Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory, as a result of the rapid population decline in those areas.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.