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Confronting a tough issue: Fertility control and translocation for over-abundant Koalas on Kangaroo Island, South Australia 

Toni Duka and Pip Masters

INTRODUCTION

The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) (Fig. 1) has a high and favourable social profile and appeals to a wide variety of people, particularly overseas visitors. Animals in high densities are easily seen, which has distinct benefits for the Australian tourism industry. However, there is a conflict in perception of the value and place of introduced Koalas within the landscape of Kangaroo Island, located off the coast of South Australia (Figs 2 and 3), where growing numbers are having a negative impact on their preferred food trees, the Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis var. cygnetensis) and Bluegum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon ssp. leucoxylon) (Fig. 4). This conflict, plus the fact that Koalas are declining on the highly populated eastern seaboard of Australia, has had a significant impact on the way the species has been managed on the island. After scientific debate, subsequent media attention and informal community consultation, a Koala management program on Kangaroo Island was directed towards the non-lethal management options of sterilization and translocation.

This paper reviews the development and effectiveness of the sterilization and translocation components of the Kangaroo Island Koala Management Program from 1997 to 2001. The paper highlights the issues and complexities that need to be considered by other wildlife managers who may be considering using similar management techniques.