Scores of koalas have been found dead at a timber plantation in Australia after loggers allegedly bulldozed the area.
Animal welfare charity Animals Australia said the animals had taken refuge in a bluegum plantation in Portland, Victoria after losing their habitats to the recent bushfires.
Pictures circulating on social media over the weekend showed dozens of dead koalas lying on the ground at the site.
Animals Australia said it had flown in vets to care for those koalas that survived, as the Daily Mail reported that over a dozen had been killed and more than 60 were injured.
The charity said their deaths may have been caused by “various breaches of legislation” since logging companies are required to ensure there are no endangered animals in the area where they are felling trees.
With the support of local authorities and wildlife carers, Vets are seeking to save as many of these precious animals as possible. We appreciate the of concern from so many caring people, but please know there is no need for further volunteers.
We will update when we can. 💔🐨 pic.twitter.com/ckBCmyOiWq
— Animals Australia (@AnimalsAus) February 1, 2020
“Friends, there is a distressing situation unfolding in Victoria and it has nothing to do with bushfires,” Animals Australia posted on Twitter.
“Heartbreaking photos of injured and dead koalas from a razed Bluegum Plantation in Portland are circulating across social media.
“On becoming aware of this situation on Friday, we flew in a veterinary team from @Vets_Compassion.
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“A second vet team was flown in to assist with the treatment of surviving animals yesterday.”
The charity said they had been inundated with offers of support from the public, adding that they would be assisting authorities in their investigation.
“During this time of devastating habitat loss, it will come as no surprise that koalas are seeking refuge in commercial bluegum plantations. The logging of these forests then destroys precious habitat,” the statement added.
“By law, the companies that own these plantations must provide koala ‘spotters’ to identify koalas in trees before logging commences, so that animals can be safely removed and relocated. There is also a legal responsibility to ensure the welfare of koalas after logging has ceased.”
“We are still gathering the details as to what has occurred in this case but it would appear that there are various breaches of legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which we will be supporting authorities to pursue.”
Local MP for the region Andy Meddick said he had been devastated by news of the koalas deaths.
“As bushfires ravage parts of our state, killing millions of native animals, a bluegum plantation full of koalas is being cleared in my electorate of Western Victoria,” he said.
“According to local sources, hundreds of koalas have been impacted. Some have been killed, many injured.”