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Australian state introduces new laws to protect iconic koalas

Xinhua, January 9, 2017 Adjust font size:

The Australian state of Victoria has introduced tougher laws for timber plantations to protect koalas from preventable injuries or death.

The new rules, which will come into effect in April, will make it illegal for operators of timber plantations to under-report the number of koala deaths and injuries on their plantations.

Lily D'Ambrosio, Victoria's Environment Minister, said the new rules would provide the relevant authorities with the best possible chance of protecting koalas.

"They will be mandated to report any injuries and any deaths of koalas and if they fail to do that of course there are penalties that will come into play," D'Ambrosio told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday.

"So we believe that this will actually lead to improved behaviors of the industry."

In addition to tightening the reporting of koala deaths, the new rules will mean plantation operators will have to carry out population surveys and employ spotters to keep watch for koalas.

An increasing number of koalas have sought refuge in blue gum plantations in the state's south-west due to a dwindling natural habitat.

Between 200,000 and 400,000 of the iconic marsupials are estimated to be living in the region.

Ross Hampton, CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association, said the industry supported the new rules but warned that population surveys 12 months before harvest would achieve little.

"It doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense to us since koalas obviously move around, where they are 12 months before an operation may not be where they are when it really matters," he told the ABC.

Hampton also refuted D'Ambrosio's claim that koala deaths and injuries were being under-reported.

"I think what she (D'Ambrosio) is referring to there is some history of three, four, five years ago which was a time when the industry was coming to terms with the fact that a large number of koalas were moving into these previously cleared areas," he said. Endit