Koala ‘whistle blower’ seeks independent regulation

MOUNT Gambier wildlife rescuer Jill Rowley says the issue of koalas being killed or injured in plantations has reached flashpoint and has called for independent regulation on the issue.

Ms Rowley - who has been the whistleblower on the issue - claimed this week koalas continued to be killed in bluegum plantations in South Australia and across the border into Victoria.

She said the problem had escalated as bluegum harvesting moved into full swing.

While explaining some logging companies had made significant inroads into the issue, she said others continued to turn a blind eye.

Her comments follow the ABC’s 7.30 Report revealing the carnage in bluegum plantations on Monday night.

Ms Rowley said she stood by the industry’s right to harvest bluegums, but wanted broad and tighter regulations as well as action from an independent regulator.

“These plantations have been grown for harvesting - and that’s what has to happen,” the wildlife advocate said.

Ms Rowley - who took an injured koala to a Mount Gambier veterinarian to have a plaster cast removed from its leg on Wednesday after it fell from a tree during harvesting - said she was concerned the negative national coverage could sweep up regional companies that had appropriate protocols in place.

“I have a concern for companies who are trying to do the right thing that they are going to get a flogging,” she said.

She said she had met with a number of logging companies - based in the Mount Gambier region - over the past five months trying to resolve the problem.

Ms Rowley said one company was investigating the use of a heat-seeking camera to be installed on machinery and was paying a koala spotter 

in the plantations.

“These companies need to be recognised,” she said.

“Logging operator Dohnts is trying to do the right thing and have implemented a good process and a paper trail,” she said.

However, she said the issue was not progressing with some other companies.

“We are talking about big money, they fear people will try and shut them down and people will lose their livelihoods,” Ms Rowley said.

“I am not trying to wipe out the industry.”

But she said the reality was koalas were being hurt and killed and a solution needed to be found.

She said 28 koalas were taken recently from just one plantation.

“These koalas were both injured or needed to be relocated,” Ms Rowley said.

She revealed some plantation workers had been “traumatised” by the situation.

She said most of the koalas injured during the harvesting process had to be euthanised because their bones - including backs - were broken from “dropping” from 20 to 30 metre high trees.

People who find injured or misplaced koalas in the region - including on the road network - should call Ms Rowley on 0407 252 853.

Ms Rowley has a special licence to care for injured koalas.

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