Tighter koala protection rules for Australian loggers

A koala chewing on gum leaves in a tree Image copyright WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GettyImages
Image caption Companies have three months to apply for authorisation if their operations could impact koalas

Timber companies in south-eastern Australia will be subject to stringent new rules protecting koalas.

From April, firms managing blue gum plantations in Victoria state's Green Triangle region will be required to have a "koala management plan" in place, the state government says. That will include using koala spotters to keep a lookout for the animals while trees are being felled, and if one of the furry creatures is spotted then several trees surrounding it must be spared.

Unlike some Australian states, Victoria has an abundance of koalas, and in some parts there are so many that they're running out of trees.

Blue gums - a type of eucalyptus - are one of the few preferred food sources for the notoriously picky eaters, but living in a commercial logging area is risky. In 2013, a major woodchip company admitted its operations had killed and maimed koalas, prompting environmental groups to criticise the government's oversight of the industry.

Victoria's new rules require operators to report all koala deaths or injuries, with penalties for those that fail to do so, Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio tells ABC. They'll also have to carry out population surveys.

But some conservationists tell the broadcaster that a broader approach needs to be considered, including sterilisation, relocation and a major tree-planting effort to replace those that have died off through koala activity.

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