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Female koalas may get lifeline

NOOSA may become an environmental refuge for chlamydia-ravaged female koalas in south-east Queensland.

Cuddling an Australia Zoo-bred healthy female called April, Environment Minister Andrew Powell announced in Tewantin National Park that the government was considering overturning an edict that often means a "grisly end" for recovered koalas which have been made sterile by the disease.

"If they haven't been able to find a home at a zoo or a sanctuary they've been euthanised," Mr Powell said of these sterile survivors.

"The reality is there are places in south-east Queensland where with the right scientific approach we can be releasing these koalas so that they can live out their days in peace.

"We're looking for partners to identify where we could place these koalas as quickly as possible."

And certainly the Noosa hinterland has been identified as high on the list of potential trial release areas.

However, the government wants to be guided by experts in the field to ensure that released koalas do not affect healthier populations by competing for resources.

"We recently purchased 57 ha down the road at Lake Macdonald, right next door (to Tewantin National Park), connecting some of our already existing protected areas," Mr Powell said.

"They're the kind of places where we would be looking to our future partner, to identify if we could release koalas there.

"Many of these koalas are being treated for chlamydia so they are becoming sterile, which means that they cannot breed which means they are potentially competing with koalas that can.''

Mr Powell said any koala that had to be euthanised was one too many.

He said more than $26 million was set aside to acquire prime koala habitat.

"I haven't got specific figures (on euthanased females) but it's enough that there's been a community groundswell for many years now looking for an alternative," the minister said.

Mr Powell said Member for Noosa Glen Elmes had been leading the campaign for sterile female koala releases.

Mr Elmes said Noosa would do anything it could to find a home for female koalas that "may be sterile but are completely healthy in every other way".

"We have the natural environment - great assets like the Tewantin National Park where we are today and a community that really likes its environment and loves its koalas."

Mr Elmes said the potential for Noosa National Park's headland section, where koalas displaced by southern land clearing in the late 1950s were introduced by Dr Arthur Harrold, would be something to be determined by further investigations.

"From my point of view I'd love to be able to see koalas back in the Noosa National Park," Mr Elmes said.


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