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The Koala Conundrum

Credit: Philip Roetman

Credit: Philip Roetman

By Margreet Drijfhout & Dave Kendal

Wildlife managers believe that overabundant koala populations need to be culled before they strip the manna gums in which they live and begin to starve, but will the public accept culling koalas and other wildlife species, such as kangaroos and brumbies?

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How do you feel about koalas? Do you think they are cute and cuddly? A good ambassador for Australia? Or just another animal in the world, no different to others? What about a pest animal?

Understanding people’s opinions is increasingly important in conservation, as public opinion shapes what managers can and cannot do. When we surveyed people across Australia we found that the public doesn’t support culling koalas (whereas many wildlife managers do), that providing information can increase public support for culling, and that people think differently about koala management compared with kangaroos and brumbies.

Koalas are very common in some parts of Victoria and South Australia. They are sometimes so common that the koalas are causing damage to their environment and themselves, as they need more food than is available. Koalas in Victoria and South Australia like eating the leaves of the manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis). High-density koala populations can eat all the leaves of manna gum trees, and when the trees grow new leaves they will eat all those leaves too.