South Australia Approves New Koala Plan for Kangaroo Island

State government approves new rules for harvesting with investigation into koala cruelty ongoing.

Wed 27 Mar 24


Forest harvesting will resume on Kangaroo Island after the South Australian Government green-lit a new Koala Management Plan yesterday. 

The new plan comes after footage of Koalas under duress “shocked the world” and caused “embarrassment for the state’s tourism industry”, according to SA Liberal Opposition Leader and former Environmental Minister David Speirs, probing the government to launch an ongoing investigation into Koala Cruelty in the plantations.

Wood Central understands the new management plan will cover 18,600 hectares of the Island’s controversial Tasmanian Bluegum plantation. In the fallout, Kiland, the plantations’ owner, replaced the contractor, Australian Agribusiness Group (AAG), responsible for harvesting.

It comes as Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate, Environment and Water Susan Close told ABC Radio Adelaide that she was “rushing” to implement a regulation change to the National Parks and Wildlife Act that would give her the power to halt logging activity that was not undertaken per a management plan.

Improvements to koala welfare management in the plan include:
  • Additional koala spotting requirements and strategies to manage fatigue and communications with harvesters
  • A requirement to report incidents within 24 hours and monthly interactions and operational activity reports to authorities.
  • Notification of planned harvest activity two weeks before
  • Formalising relationships between vets, wildlife carers and company
  • Differentiating koala spotting strategies between structurally stable plantations and those unsafe due to fire impact

In addition, the Department of Environment and Water will monitor the plan’s effectiveness over the next six months and has pledged to coordinate unannounced compliance checks of the plantations to ensure procedures are followed.

Minister Close said, “The footage of koalas being killed and injured in timber plantations on Kangaroo Island shocked our community and required an immediate response from the government.” Last week, she met with Kiland’s executive team in Sydney and said Kiland “needs an improved management plan before removing invasive Tasmanian Blue Gums.”

“While this improved management plan will allow the company to resume felling, the investigation into any breaches of animal welfare laws is ongoing,” Minister Close said, adding that the government is “working on a broader management plan for koalas on the island.”

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Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island – after Tasmania and Melville Island. The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 had a devastating impact on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. The fires burned approximately 211,474 hectares of land, which is almost half of the entire island – including 95% of the Island’s Koala habitat. (Photo Credit: Photo 8313871 | Kangaroo Island © John White |

In 2021, Kiland committed to converting its 18,696 hectares of plantation to land for traditional agricultural production. Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network president Katie Welz is pushing for the state government to acquire unburnt land from the 2019/20 Black Summer fires and convert it into a temporary koala refuge while a long-term management plan for the species.

“What we … would love to see is a sacrificial plantation where healthy koalas can be put in to live out their natural lives,” she said, adding that “we’re seeing koalas starving and being displaced in large numbers, and this is just not good enough.”

History of the Island’s koalas

Koalas were introduced to the Island in the 1920s amid fears they could become extinct on the mainland. Eighteen animals were released in Flinders Chase National Park, but their numbers quickly expanded.

Between 1997 and the Black Summer fires in 2019/20, more than 12,300 koalas were sterilised, and 3,800 were relocated to south-east South Australia in an attempt to control their numbers on the Island.

A 2010 survey estimated the koala population at 14,000, but in 2015—the first time the plantations were included —that number jumped to 48,000. Only 8,500 were believed to have survived the Island’s devastating 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment and Water said a survey taken two years ago estimated the koala population had recovered to about 15,000, with about 20 per cent thought to be living in the blue gum plantations.


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