2015: Great Otway National Park. North East of Lorne

Hundreds of starving koalas moved north along Great Ocean Road for chance at surviving summer


Nov 19 2015

About 400 koalas are being moved from Cape Otway, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, as part of plans to manage a huge spike in the animal’s population.

Wildlife officers from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said there were at least 1,000 koalas at Cape Otway – an area that should house about 200.

Almost 800 starving koalas have been put down at Cape Otway in the past two years.

“We’re hoping that by moving about 400 this time around that will reduce the population by about a third, and that will give the habitat time to recover somewhat and certainly give it some respite over the summer,” DELWP senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson said.

She said the problem was that the koalas were feasting on the manna gum trees at Cape Otway, so they would be moved to a site with different species of gum trees in the Great Otway National Park, north-east of Lorne.

“Manna gum habitat is becoming quite scarce now and it’s often the case that the manna gum habitat is over-browsed,” she said.

“Now the issue is understanding the effect on the koala and on the habitat of moving them into a mixed forest environment.”

The move follows a successful trial of 37 koalas in September.

“It’s been a very dry spring here and we don’t expect the trees are going to do very well over the summer months so it’s a really good time for koalas to be translocated,” Ms Watson said.

Cape Otway locals said the population spike got very bad a few years ago.

Frank Fotinas is the manager of Bimbi Park, and said he was finding dead koalas by the side of the road.

“The koalas were just sitting underneath the trees dying, and they were just in really bad condition,” he said.

He said the translocation was very welcome, but would not be enough to ensure the environment returned to normal at Cape Otway.

“It needs to be constantly monitored,” he said.

“We’ve planted a lot and we keep planting.

“Planting trees is very important but it’s not going to fix the problem instantly.”

Environmentalists at the Conservation Ecology Centre have planted almost 93,000 tree seedlings over the past few years.