More than 400 koalas are settling into a new home after their relocation to Great Otway National Park.
Overpopulation pressures forced a culling program but a public outcry prompted the relocation of 374 healthy adult koalas and 74 dependent young.
Authorities hope the koalas’ new 4300-hectare habitat north of Lorne will address the welfare needs of an “overabundant“ population at Cape Otway ahead of summer.
The Lorne site has several species of eucalypt that are favoured forage for the koalas, which were starving after eating out their previous home at Cape Otway.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson said 85 koalas deemed unsuitable for relocation were returned to their site of capture.
“The welfare of koalas is our first priority and has guided the staged action approach,” Ms Watson said.
“Relocating healthy koalas to the new area before summer gives them a better opportunity of adapting to their new environment and remaining healthy. Otherwise their future at Cape Otway this summer was very bleak.
“Fertility control of the adult females and their female back-young over 1kg will help with population control at both Cape Otway and the relocation site into the future. This will protect the coming generations of koalas and their habitats by maintaining koala populations at more sustainable levels.”
Over four weeks State Government vets, wildlife officers and volunteers captured and health-checked 528 adult koals, with 213 females fertility-controlled.
Ms Watson said 70 koalas were “humanely euthanised” due to health issues.
Twelve orphaned young were rehomed to approved wildlife parks and zoos.
A research trial group of koalas, fitted with radio collars in September before release into the national park, will be monitored until spring.
Originally published at Geelong Independent.