Australia to Give Female Koalas Contraceptive Implants

Female koalas given contraceptive implant
A Koala joey named 'Boonda' clings to his mother 'Elle' as they sit in their enclosure at Wildlife World in Sydney June 28, 2011. The zoo plans to launch a fund raising program to help conserve the iconic Australian marsupial which faces threats from habitat reduction and disease. Tim Wimborne/REUTERS

Healthy female koalas at Cape Otway on Victoria's Great Ocean Road in Australia are set to receive a contraceptive implant in order to help control the soaring numbers of koalas living in damaged environments who are suffering from a lack of food.

Despite a national cull between 2013 and 2014, wildlife officers have claimed the environment is increasingly unable to match the soaring numbers of constantly reproducing, ever-grazing koalas that snack on manna gum trees (eucalyptus leaves) and other native Australian trees.

Dr Jack Pascoe from the Conservation Ecology Centre explained the problem. "An imbalance in the ecosystem led to a catastrophe - koalas were, through no fault of their own - eating away their habitat". In order to tackle the issue, wildlife officers have confirmed that all female koalas will now be caught and medically examined to determine whether they are healthy enough to remain in the environment and receive the implant. Any koalas deemed 'unhealthy' will be culled.

With numbers due to be cut and the animal's ability to reproduce halted, there is hope that their environment will begin to flourish and expand again, providing food and shelter for the remaining koalas.

The contraceptive implants are a welcomed alternative to a sweeping cull of the native Australian koalas, which were listed as "vulnerable" under Australia's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2012.

Under the previous Australian Labour Government, exactly 686 koalas were culled between 2013 and 2014 near the Great Ocean Road in a bid to regenerate the foliage the koalas resided in yet unknowingly destroyed. There is a fear amongst conservation groups in Australia however that widespread culling may occur again this year, with six koalas deemed 'unhealthy' already being put down on Monday.

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) said that culling the koalas, which were deliberately moved into Cape Otway in the 1980s to boost tourism in the area, should not be an option in this case and blamed the government's "gross mismanagement" for Cape Otway's ecosystem's mess.

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are currently approximately 80,000 koalas in Australia. They can be found primarily in coastal areas of the mainland's eastern and southern regions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.