- Alcoa, an aluminium smelter, killed 152 koalas
- The koalas were suffering from fluoride exposure
More than 150 koalas have been put down after falling ill while living near an American-owned aluminium smelter in the last four years.
Alcoa, an aluminium smelter in Portland in regional southwest Victoria, admitted to killing the koalas after finding they were deteriorating from exposure to fluoride – a waste product of smelting.
The industry giant found a large group of koalas living in the 17 hectares closest to the smelter were suffering from the effects of fluorosis, a disease caused by fluoride exposure which can lead to malnutrition as well as skeletal and dental defects.
Overpopulation was also found to be a problem in the small area.
The 152 worst-affected koalas, about 60 per cent of those assessed, were euthanised and the forest was closed off from the public in March.
In response to the tragic loss of life, Alcoa has implemented a Koala Management Plan.
Part of its plan to rehabilitate koala’s wellbeing in the area includes planting 16,000 eucalyptus trees on 14 hectares further from the smelter.
Alcoa hopes that by gradually removing the 17 worst-affected hectares while the plantation grows it will encourage the koalas to move to the new forest.
‘We remain committed to supporting the ongoing protection and management of the local koala population,’ a spokesperson said in a statement.
However, wildlife activist groups say the situation in Portland is only an example of a wider koala crisis across Victoria.
Koalas are listed as endangered in NSW, QLD and the ACT but the Victorian Government claims its koala population is ‘secure’.
Some parts of the state have even declared an overpopulation of koalas, including the southwest where Portland is located.
In 2022 the government euthanised almost a third of the 125 koalas near the Budj Bim dormant volcano, about 70km from Portland.
Koala Alliance Victoria is just one of the agencies that claim Victoria is overestimating the stability of its koala population and calling for the national icons to be treated with more respect.
‘If we don’t act, koalas in Victoria will vanish without even getting onto the endangered list,’ spokesperson Jessica Roberson told Yahoo.
‘That would be a terrible tragedy and we will not rest until something is done to turn this around.’