WILDLIFE officers and vets have started a two-week fertility-control program and health checks on the koala population at Cape Otway.
The program started on Monday and will capture female koalas to implant a fertility control hormone aiming to manage breeding rates and address overpopulation during the coming spring and summer.
Officers and vets will also assess koalas’ health and will return koalas fit for release back to their home range and workers will euthanise koalas deemed too sick, to prevent further suffering.
Field monitoring in February showed the koala density in parts of Cape Otway was still high with an estimated 600 koalas remaining in 120 hectares of manna gum and some mixed eucalypt woodland.
Workers will target locations with high koala density and properties where koala densities reach up to 11 koalas a hectare.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is delivering the program that includes small teams of trained professionals.
Environment, Climate Change and Water Minister Lisa Neville said the program was a part of a plan to manage the Cape Otway koala population and improve the forest.
“The welfare of koalas is our first priority, and this two-week program is aimed at achieving a healthy native forest and a sustainable population of healthy koalas at Cape Otway,” Ms Neville said.
“I’d like to thank the Cape Otway community, especially local landowners, businesses, the Conservation Ecology Centre and other research partners, for working with us and providing local knowledge and support,” she said.
Overpopulation of koalas at Cape Otway forced the department to euthanise 680 starving koalas between September 2013 and March 2014 after the population grew to unsustainable levels killing manna gums in the area.
In the past 12 months the department has conducted a koala health assessment, a koala intervention and trial translocation and a four-week large scale translocation of 448 koalas to the Great Otway National Park.