World Conservation Trust
Cull them, or Count
Australian Environment Minister John Hill is reported to
be looking into the strong call by scientists for an immediate and severe cull
of Kangaroo Island's koalas. It is said that in order to save the environment
that supports them, 65% of these animals should be culled immediately. That
would be 21,450 culled, with 11,550 remaining.
Past and recent attempts to cut down on the population through sterilization
of the animals have been both costly and embarrassingly ineffective, since the
animals have increased from a more manageable number of 5,000 in 1996, to over
Presumably, if the cull was accomplished, further attempts to keep the
population under control might be through continued sterilization measures on a
certain percentage of the remaining population.
Koalas are attractive icons of great importance to South Australia's tourist
industry, whose representatives have vigorously opposed a cull, fearing
worldwide condemnation. However, relocations and operations on too few koalas
have not been enough to preserve the manna gum trees, which are the necessary
shelter and fodder for these animals. Environment reporter Catherine Hockley of
The Advertiser, has reviewed comments by veterinary scientists, university
biologists, and others, and reports that there seems to be unanimous concern
that without a cull, a humane and environmental disaster will result.
Such difficult decisions depend on precise timing; Mr. Hill was up for
election when he declared that a cull was too drastic a measure. Now that he is
Environment Minister, and presumably safe in his environment for the time
being, perhaps he will have the political courage to make the most difficult of
moral decisions, and thereby save Kangaroo Island, by restoring a balance
between koalas and manna gum trees. The animals will be better off, the tourist
industry will breathe a sigh of fiscal relief, and scientists will finally be
vindicated when their calls for a cull have been answered with appropriate
action. A real disaster will have been averted.The alternatives are
unthinkable. Good luck, koalas.