Redland City Council-commissioned research calls for review of ‘poorly informed’ koala euthanasia procedures – RCB

By October 2, 2019 News

Cheryl Goodenough           OCTOBER 2 2019 – 12:30PM

 Local News

 RESEARCH: Biolink Ecological Consultants were commissioned by Redland City Council to research the Redlands koala population. Photo: Koala Action Group

RESEARCH has slammed the euthanasia of koalas as poorly informed, saying that it has been the main reason for the drop in koala population on the Redlands mainland.

The Redland City Council-commissioned research recommended a review of procedures informing decisions to euthanise koalas after finding that at least 2292 koalas were removed from the Redlands and euthanised between 1997 and 2014.

Other main factors were vehicle strikes and domestic dog attacks.

With the mainland Redlands koala population estimated at 345, researchers Biolink Ecological Consultants said if their recommendations were not implemented soon, mainland Redland koalas could be extinct within two to three koala generations.

They said there was no evidence that euthanising koalas had been effective in boosting healthy populations or reducing diseased ones.

A council spokesman said the council, in response to the euthanasia findings, was working with the Local Government Association of Queensland in regard to state government koala reforms and areas of state jurisdiction like the treatment of diseased koalas.

The research – which cost $51,000 – also recommended long-term monitoring, a vehicle-strike mitigation strategy and a development control plan with the Logan City Council to avoid fragmentation of koala habitat and maximise connectivity.

The council spokesman said the research had been used for the council’s $500,000 Koala Conservation Action Plan which includes the creation of the Ormiston Koala Safe Neighbourhood, the roll out of other koala safe neighbourhoods and the koala conservation community awareness campaign.

“Council is using this and other scientific reports and survey commissioned under the KCAP to keep informing the best possible ways to make a difference to protecting Redlands Coast koalas. The individual recommendations of the report are important and council’s KCAP program is using these as part of the broader work being undertaken by council in regards to koala conservation.”

The spokesman said the council was installing temporary signage at black spots based on koala strike data, while work was under way to include more koala-friendly elements to future road infrastructure works.

“Council is continuing its smart signage trials within the Ormiston Koala Safe Neighbourhood to determine the most effective signage that influences driver behaviour,” the spokesman said.

The Biolink report said that current decision-paths informing the decision to euthanise were complex, experiential and poorly informed.

While some institutions regarded a body score of seven as a reason for euthanasia, the score was common and not usually a concern. “Koalas have recovered from body scores as low as five following appropriate husbandry protocols,” the report said.

The report said in Queensland koalas aged six to seven were a candidate for euthanasia due to tooth wear but koalas older than 10 had been successfully released back into the wild and survived.

The research found that 4853 koalas died between 1997 and 2017. Of those 57 per cent of deaths were attributed to disease, 32 per cent to vehicle strikes and 8 per cent to domestic dog attacks.

About 76 per cent of the 4716 diseased koalas died. Of those, 83 per cent – or 2292 – were by euthanasia.

Black spots for vehicle strikes were on Mount Cotton Road from Capalaba to Mount Cotton, Duncan Road at Capalaba to the end of Boundary Road at Thornlands, Redland Bay Road at Capalaba and Springacre Road through to Kingfisher Road at Thornlands.

A total of 41 koala deaths were due to train strikes, the majority between 2000 and 2011.

In contrast to the mainland, the population on North Stradbroke Island – estimated at 409 – appeared to be stable and its distribution expanding.