Compared to northern Australian states, southern Victoria has a large and thriving koala population.
Accordingly, Victoria has a responsibility to ensure its koala populations are at sustainable densities wherever suitable habitat occurs throughout their natural range. Management of koalas in Victoria has been an active and evolving process for more than 95 years.
The Victorian Koala Management Strategy
Victoria's Koala Management Strategy provides a formal plan to guide management actions and policy decisions.
This strategy was prepared after consultation with community groups and relevant state government agencies.
The aim of the strategy is to ensure that viable wild populations of koala persist throughout their natural range wherever suitable habitat occurs in Victoria. A copy of the Victorian Koala Management Strategy can be downloaded here:
The strategy addresses the key issues affecting koala populations in Victoria, including monitoring populations, managing genetic diversity, managing captive, sick and injured koalas and managing over-browsing.
In some areas in Victoria, particularly Cape Otway, there is an over-abundance of koalas. The resulting over-browsing of habitat trees threatens the habitat and ecological values in the affected area and the welfare of the koalas.
About the Cape Otway koalas
the fact sheet for detailed information about the management of koalas at Cape Otway.
Over-abundance of koalas at Cape Otway is a difficult long-term issue brought about by their love of Manna Gums, their reluctance to change food source, favourable climatic conditions and an absence of predators.
Koalas love of Manna Gum, results in them staying in bare trees rather than moving to another tree type, such as those found in the neighbouring Great Otway National Park.
Where populations of koalas are higher than sustainable levels, over-browsing and defoliation of favoured food species leads to starvation and ultimately death.
the fact sheet for a summary of the history of koalas at Cape Otway and
programs that have been delivered.
2015, DELWP established and consulted a panel of animal welfare and
ecological experts on how to proactively manage the koala over-abundance at
Cape Otway. This resulted in the development of the Cape Otway Koala Management
Actions. These actions aim to achieve a vision of healthy habitat and a
population of healthy koalas at Cape Otway. These actions also provide a
pathway to long-term management of the koala over-abundance at Cape Otway.
2015, DELWP has been delivering management programs identified in the
Management Actions to improve the health of the koala population and their
from the four-day health assessment indicated a link between poor canopy cover
and poor koala health, and confirmed that further actions were needed to be
taken to manage the welfare of the koalas at Cape Otway.
September 2015 – Two week koala welfare intervention
and trial translocation
In September 2015 DELWP completed a two-week operation to improve the welfare of koalas at Cape Otway, capturing and assessing a total of 395 koalas.
Of the 395 koalas assessed, a total of 341 healthy koalas were released back into the wild, 166 females were treated with fertility control hormone implants, and 37 koalas were radio-collared and translocated to an area in the Great Otway National Park as part of a trial.
54 koalas were humanely euthanased due to health issues.
the operation 69 dependent back young were captured and released with their
mothers. Four back young were rehomed to a Victorian wildlife park after their
mothers were euthanased due to poor health.
monitoring (30 days) of the trial
translocation by Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) showed positive results with the
majority of koalas showing early signs
of adapting to their new environment.
scientists with expertise in wildlife ecology and habitat modelling used
habitat mapping to identify a suitable translocation site north of Lorne. As
part of the habitat mapping process areas where planned burns were scheduled
and areas close to main roads were excluded. Site visits were undertaken to
estimate resident koala densities and verify the presence of koala food trees
prior to finalisation of the translocation site.
This map highlights areas of modelled koala
November/December 2015 - Large scale translocation and fertility control program
Building on the positive results of the first monitoring, a large-scale translocation of koalas from Cape Otway to an area of mixed eucalyptus forest in the Great Otway National Park commenced on the 16 November 2015 and ran for four weeks. Translocation was undertaken to help manage the immediate welfare needs of the Cape Otway koalas and reduce over-browsing of their preferred habitat. Translocating koalas at this time of year enabled them to adapt to their new environment before any cold, wet weather.
Over the four weeks, a total of 528 adult koalas
and 119 dependent back young were captured and health checked by qualified
vets. Some 213 females were fertility controlled, with 69 adult koalas and one
dependent back young euthanased due to health related issues and to prevent
further suffering. Twelve dependent back young were re-homed at approved
wildlife parks and 85 koalas not suitable for translocation were released back
at their site of capture at Cape Otway.
operation involved over 75 staff and volunteers from the following
organisations: DELWP, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and
Resources, Deakin University, EcoPlan, Jirrahlinga Koala Wildlife Sanctuary, La
Trobe University and University of Melbourne Veterinary School.
Monitoring the trial translocation koalas
Most koalas in the trial and in the
control group at Cape Otway, were recaptured and assessed through the second
comprehensive monitoring conducted by ARI in February 2016. The results were
encouraging with the translocated animals doing better than those returned to
their original home ranges at Cape Otway.
Autumn Program - May 2016 – Two week health assessments and fertility
In May 2016 DELWP delivered a two week fertility
control and health check program in line with long term actions outlined in the Cape Otway Koala Management Actions. The program focused on
catching female koalas previously not caught before on private properties with
high koala densities.
During the two-week program a total of 259 koalas
were captured and assessed at the vet station. Of those, 246 were female and 13
male, with 184 healthy females fertility controlled.
Unfortunately vets considered 10 koalas to be in
poor health and these were humanely euthanized to prevent further suffering.
A total of 249 healthy koalas were released back to
their site of capture at Cape Otway. No dependent back-young were encountered.
Results from the two-week program indicated an
overall improvement in the health of the koala population with such a low
percentage (4%) of koalas euthanized; significantly down from previous actions.
Spring Program - November/December 2016 – Two week health assessment, fertility
control and translocation program.
From November 21 to December 2, 2016 DELWP conducted a fertility
control, health check and translocation of koalas to north of Lorne within the
Great Otway National Park. The Spring program aimed to reduce koala population
at areas of high densities and declining canopy cover to assist the Manna Gum
woodland to recover.
A total of 344 koalas were captured and assessed. Of those checked, 100
healthy females were fertility controlled and 236 koalas were translocated to
suitable habitat in the Great Otway National Park. All captured animals were in
good condition. There were 29 koalas which our veterinarian determined to
have significant health issues and genetic abnormalities. These
animals were humanely euthanased to prevent further suffering. There were
no orphaned back young during the delivery of the program.
All efforts were made to ensure female koalas were not translocated if
they were pregnant, or carrying female
pouch or back young under two kilograms. All translocated females and female
back young over two kilograms were fertility controlled prior to translocation.
Download the fact sheet for detailed information about the 2016 Spring
Koala Management Program
The koala management program at Cape Otway is informed by the results
of the previous programs, and where relevant, targeted research. ARI have finalised their report on the carrying capacity and habitat
health assessment of Manna Gum dominated areas of the region. This will assist
the BSW region to plan koala management programs at Cape Otway and other forest
areas in south west Victoria into the future. Results from recent koala density
surveys confirmed that further programs, as detailed in the Management Actions,
need to be taken to manage the koala population at Cape Otway.
Did you know?
Koalas now occupy most of
the available habitat in southern Victoria.
Koala population trends are
shaped by the extent and quality of available habitat, the presence or
absence of diseases, such as chlamydia, and the nutritional quality of
eucalypt leaves available.
Fragmentation of habitat is
a serious issue for koala conservation because they have a specialised
low-energy, low-nutrient diet. This means that koalas have a limited
amount of energy available to use travelling between patches of food
Because of their low energy
diet of eucalypt leaves, koalas must rest for much of the day. They are
active for only about four hours of the day, usually after dark.
Koalas live for up to 20
years in the wild.
Koalas only have one
offspring in a year, usually in summer.
Koalas breed from September
to March with a single young being born after a 33 – 35 day pregnancy. The
baby koala, called a 'joey', remains in the mother's pouch for
approximately six months. Weaning occurs at one year of age.
Male koalas can weigh up to
15 kilograms and females up to 11 kilograms.
Koalas are not bears. They
are marsupials because their young are born at a very early stage of development
and are then nourished in a pouch.
In the past, koalas were
killed for their fur. From 1919 to 1924, eight million koalas were killed
across Australia. Today, the koala is threatened by domestic dogs and by
vehicle traffic, but by far the biggest threat to koalas is habitat loss.
Koalas do not normally share
trees and, in prime quality habitat, have territories ranging from 1.2 to
How you can help
Please report sick or injured koalas to the nearest wildlife shelter by calling RACV Wildlife Connect on 13 11 11 or call the DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186 for contact details of wildlife rehabilitation organisations in your area.