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Managing native animals

Koalas

Wildlife populations are dynamic. They vary naturally in distribution in response to a variety of factors such as climate, food availability and predation.

In parks, animals are often confined to limited areas that are bound by highly modified landscapes. Populations of native species have the potential to grow beyond sustainable levels. As population densities increase, overgrazing, over-browsing or trampling can result in:

  • Habitat degradation and loss of flora
  • Negative impacts on other native species dependant on those habitats
  • Mass starvation of the population as their source of food is completely consumed.

Management and monitoring

In some cases, a native animal population may need to be actively managed to protect biodiversity and reduce the risk of large-scale population starvation.

Native animals are managed only when a particular population is:

  • Threatening the survival of rare or threatened species or communities
  • A major contributor to serious environmental damage or long-term degradation of habitat
  • A major factor preventing habitat recovery
  • Suffering from malnutrition or disease as a result of overcrowding and an inability to disperse from an artificially confined area.

Parks Victoria uses its Adaptive Management Framework to assess and plan programs to manage overabundant native animals. This risk-based approach allows us to manage the greatest risks to the highest environmental values.

Management programs are monitored regularly to determine sustainable population targets and evaluate how effective the program is.

In parks where koala densities are unsustainable, the koalas' source of food, largely Manna Gums, can be over-grazed. This defoliation causes the trees to die, leading mass starvation of the koala population.

Koala management

Parks Victoria uses three strategies to manage unsustainable koala populations:

  • Fertility control – use of contraceptive implants
  • Koala relocation
  • Habitat manipulation – protection of individual trees.

Once populations are at sustainable levels, ongoing management is needed to ensure that population sizes are maintained.

Koala management programs are in place at:

  • Mount Eccles National Park
  • Snake Island
  • Raymond Island
  • French Island National Park.

Outcome

Where management programs have been in place over a number of years, monitoring of population levels has shown they are reduced to sustainable levels.