Why Are Koalas Falling Out of Trees and Dying?

Maimed and dead koalas: workers in Australia’s timber plantations say that it is a daily occurrence for them to find the bodies of the country’s iconic mammal on the floor of cleared forests in Victoria. Sometimes, as many as “a couple an hour” have been found. ”The casualty rate is horrendous,” says journalist Greg Hoy.

Conservationists have long claimed that the Australian government has not done enough to protect the country’s iconic animal, the koala. A recent Australian Broadcast Corporation provides yet more evidence of why the koala must be listed as endangered. It is now listed as “vulnerable,” but only in certain places (New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT) and not, certainly, in Victoria.

Koalas have sought refuge in the blue gum timber plantations due to the destruction of their native forest habitat in south Australia. As the trees in the plantations are logged, the koalas are falling from them and being severely injured, with volunteers finding them with broken backs, impact wounds and severed limbs. Dead mothers with joeys who are still alive have also been discovered. One joey was found with two healed broken arms, suggesting that his or her mother had been dropped from a tree in a previous incident.

The American-owned Australian Blue Gum Plantations, which estimates that there could be about 8,000 koalas within range of the plantation, denies that there have been any instances of koala deaths.

The Australian government also shares the blame for the koala deaths and injuries, says Deborah Tabart, the chief executive of the Australian Koala Foundation, to Guardian Australia:

“I knew things were bad, but didn’t know they were quite that grim….

“No one is taking full responsibility for the koala. It’s a native icon but everyone is saying it’s someone else’s job. The government has allowed industry to completely self-regulate. We need a new koala protection act that says you simply can’t touch a tree where a koala lives.”

While the local Victoria government has failed, says Tabart, to make sure that loggers reduce risks to koalas, the federal Australian government is also responsible as it has still not listed the koala as an endangered species in Victoria. Rather, the government is still too inclined to see koalas as “pests,” Greens senator Lee Rhiannon points out.

Andrew Pritchard, the program manager of terrestrial biodiversity at Victoria’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries, claims that his agency is working with “wildlife carers and industry to come together to formulate new management procedures. On the basis of what has happened to the koalas recently, these procedures need to be created immediately, put into action and enforced.

There were once millions of koalas in Australia, but only about 100,000 — or even as few as 43,000 — exist now. Koalas were nearly hunted into extinction in the early twentieth century for their thick fur. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the koala one of the ten most vulnerable species in the world due to climate change as they eat only the leaves of the eucalyptus, which has been cleared in many places for urban development. Even more, the eucalyptus’ nutritional value has declined as a result of increases of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The Australian government must acknowledge that, with destruction to the koalas’ habitat continuing apace due to urbanization and industry, they have had no choice but to seek other places to live. It is imperative to take precautionary measures to protect what everyone agrees is a symbol of Australia (about 75 percent of visitors to Australia say they wish to see koalas) and list them as vulnerable, recognizing that their survival is by no means assured.

Photo from Thinkstock

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven16 days ago

thanks for the article.

John W.
.about a year ago


Judith C.
Judith C.1 years ago


Mark D.
Mark D.2 years ago

Australia, pretending to be ecologically aware. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

Greed for money... that's more important for our local politicians...secret deal with project developers etc.
On a good note, almost every night we hear a healthy male's guttural noise nearby...and just to be on the safe side I put the koala rescue service on the fridge, though sincerely hope I'll never need it...

Carrie-Anne Brown

sad news but thanks for sharing

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S.2 years ago

The Australian government MUST step in to help the koalas!! Otherwise human greed will be the end of yet another incredible and unique species.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith2 years ago

Sad how no one will stand up and do something. CLEARLY they're dying when trees are cut down. These people should either be banned from cutting trees with koalas in them, OR have to move the koalas out of the trees they're going to cut.

Sad how greed gets in the way of compation and common sence.

Tamara Hayes

I find it very depressing to be a part of the human race. No matter how hard I fight for the rights of animals to live free, safe, and unhindered by mankind, it seems like I am moving backwards instead of forward. No one wants to take responsibility for the declining numbers of all of our precious animals, birds, and marine life, so no one does anything but kill more and more animals to satiate their own greed and blood lust. The human race has much to answer for and they rate we are going at, we will be answering for it sooner rather than later.

Mandy H.
Mandy H.2 years ago

It would help if WE owned the company, the US owners of the company are much less inclined to take responsibility because it's not their animals dieing, it's not their people who are angry and it's not their country that they're destroying.
The Greens do point out that neither Federal nor State Governments are inclined to see them as anything more the pests but the Greens are very good at coming up with stupid hair brained ideas like not cutting the brush in rural areas which of course results in the country going up in smoke along with animals, people, houses and huge amounts of land like in the Black Saturday Fires in 09. Whole towns are still reeling from that mess and quite frankly after that stupid idea I don't trust the Greens with the country anymore!