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January 28, 2021

Open letter to Greg Hunt re koala cull

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Good morning Greg,

This is pretty much the response overnight from the world about the secret culling of koalas in Victoria, and with this letter I will ask that you reconsider the non-listing of the koala in Victoria by Minister Burke in May 2012.

Email to the AKF: ‘As a long time koala supporter, I am APPALLED at the news that the government in my home state has killed so many koalas. It seems they have no idea how to deal with any koala issues in this state, and to simply let them starve and then use this as an excuse to kill them is irresponsible and abhorrent to me and my family. As long time supporters of your foundation, we have done our best to help, but it seems koala management and conservation does not extend to Victoria, and we now need to take action. Please tell us how we can change this, and make our state politicians accountable. Thank you.’

So minister, how do you respond to an email like this from Australians who love koalas?

In the Senate report written in 2011, the point was made that ‘the states are incapable of protecting koalas’ but somehow Victoria was able to be kept out of the loop. Why? Because of ‘over population’ of course. If one looks at this problem as ‘not enough trees’, then the issue is never going to go away. Our scientists have repeatedly tried to educate your department and the Victorian department about habitat quality in Victoria.

Was this a secret cull? Yes it was, because we know that the community has been telling us it was done in the greatest of secrecy.

Was it necessary? Suffering animals is shocking and vets can never see that happen.

Was it avoidable? Absolutely, if the department had listened to AKF since 1996 about creating senescence in the koala population and better still enhance the habitat and create corridors to allow the koalas to move through the landscape. AKF scientists Dr Kerlin and Mr Mitchell could recommend plantings that are better than ‘plant Manna gums’ which indeed may be a secondary species not a primary species.

So how did Victoria escape the loop of a listing? Because of a statistical manipulation.

Dr Kerlin has in recent days, identified how Victoria met the threshold of 29 per cent as the decline curve (instead of the required 30 per cent decline under the EPBC Act) and it is truly shocking. I want you to ask the current Victorian minister to provide those calculations to you and then make them public, so the AKF can review.

AKF insists you re-visit this science and the decision.

It goes without saying that the AKF will push this year for a koala Protection Act. Our legal team is ready and 80 politicians around the country are being asked to support your tabling the document in Parliament.

You might want to say yes to that right now. It would give the koalas a chance. Don’t you think they deserve it, given their $3 billion tourist industry and 30,000 jobs?

Deborah Tabart, CEO, Australian Koala Foundation

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