Possible link between sick koalas and Portland Aluminium emissions under microscope

Scientists will study the bodies of 40 koalas that were euthanased due to poor health to work out whether their proximity to a Victorian aluminium smelter caused serious deformities.

A similar study done on kangaroos living near Alcoa’s Portland aluminium plant more than a decade ago found that many of the animals had deformed bones and teeth as a result of fluorosis, a condition linked to the facility’s fluoride emissions.

In September last year Portland Aluminium engaged an independent consultant to assess koala populations living in a 17-hectare blue gum plantation around the smelter.

Of the 114 koalas examined, 40 were found to be in such poor health that they were put down.

Seventy-four were returned to the area.

The females were subjected to fertility control measures.

University of Melbourne senior wildlife lecturer Jasmin Hufschmid is part of a team that has been commissioned to study the bodies of the koalas that were put down.

Dr Hufschmid was involved in the six-year study on kangaroos living near the plant that began in 2008.

“We found that the kangaroos did show signs of both dental, or teeth-affecting fluorosis, and skeletal, or bone-type, fluorosis,” she said.

“For those within 100 or 200 metres from the point where the fluoride gets emitted from, those animals had quite severe impacts because they had quite severe bone growths.

“Those animals were in quite poor body condition and were probably uncomfortable due to the impacts as well.”

She said because kangaroos can live for about 15 years, the fluoride accumulated in their bodies over time.

A subsequent study that looked at the effects on other animals, including wallabies, koalas and possums, returned findings consistent with the earlier research.

“When you have an excessive intake of fluoride, what happens is that the fluoride gets incorporated into mineralised tissue in your body,” Dr Hufschmid said.

“The key mineralised tissues in your body are your teeth and your bones.

“If you’re exposed to high levels of fluoride – we’re not talking about what’s in the groundwater or the water supply, we’re talking about really high levels of fluoride – then that causes damage to your teeth.

Dr Hufschmid said discoloured, soft teeth – as well as issues with bone growths and joints – could result from long-term exposure to excessive fluoride.

She said fluoride occurred naturally in the Earth’s crust, but some industrial processes also led to its emission.

“It includes coal-fired gas stations, ceramics manufacturing and also non-ferrous metal manufacturing like aluminium smelting as well,” Dr Hufschmid said.

“As much of it as possible is usually filtered out, but a small portion can’t be.

“What tends to happen with the aerial emission of fluoride is that some of it will drop down and settle on the ground.

The US-based Alcoa, which operates aluminium smelters around the world, said in a statement that the assessment of the population at Portland was prompted by a count in May 2020 that identified 170 koalas in the area and raised concerns about the density of the population.

“Data collected during the assessment is being analysed by the University of Melbourne to inform the development of a plan for the ongoing management of the koala population and areas they inhabit,” the company said.

“This is expected to be completed in the coming months.”

Alcoa said previous studies that focused on animals such as kangaroos led to the implementation of a “Macropod Management Plan” in 2010.

“It included the replacement of grazing habitat such as grasslands with shrubs, and the fencing of potential access areas,” the company said.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said it authorised the action taken by Portland Aluminium to assess the health of koalas within the plantation surrounding the facility, which is owned by the company.

“The delivery of the program was in line with the conditions of the authorisation and associated protocols and procedures to ensure koala welfare was protected,” a DELWP spokesperson said.

Thank you for dropping in to My Local Pages and reading this news update regarding “News & What’s On in the Wimmera Region named “Possible link between sick koalas and Portland Aluminium emissions under microscope”. This story was brought to you by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local and national events & news stories services.

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Koalas, snakes, bats will benefit from wildlife hospital

A 2 ha site within the Ballina Shire has been identified as the best location for a future wildlife hospital.

Chairperson of Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital Inc, Ninian Gemmel, said the not-for-profit

has been busy trying to find a suitable site for the precinct within the Department of Primary Industries precinct in Wollongbar.

“In the last six months, we have found a site in Wollongbar and we have signed a memorandum of understanding (with DPI),” he said.

“It allows us to go ahead and make investigations and see what we need to do to modify the land, before any building modification works take place.

“The precinct will treat not just the furry koalas, but also reptiles, birds, frogs, bats and any sort of wildlife.”

Mr Gemmel said the registered charity’s directors are all volunteer roles.

“Whatever money we can bring in via donations or third-party funding goes directly to the project,” he said.


An Australasia Gannet with Ballina Sea Bird and Turtle rescuer Lance Ferris. Photo by Kevin Bull

“We are being advised by a number of very well-qualified vets in terms of what the site and the building should look like”.

The chairperson said – in the long term – the precinct is planned to do more than treat animals.

“We are a community-based organisation, and the intention is to build a world-class, brick-and-mortars (resource) for treatment of injured or orphan wildlife, but we also want to do some research, and we want to provide an educational facility for school kids and other groups to learn about wildlife and natural habitat,” he said.

“The board is currently trying to work out exactly when we might be operational.

“We would like to think that we may be in operation within 12 months, but when would we have educational and research facilities, that would be three years or maybe a bit longer.”

Winona the Green Sea Turtle, released by Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina in 2018.

Winona the Green Sea Turtle, released by Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina in 2018.

Mr Gemmel said anyone looking to become a member of donate funds can contact the organisation.

“We are redeveloping our website, but we are always open to new members joining, anyone can join in or make a tax-deductible donation by contacting Elly on info@nrwh.org.au,” he said.

Thank you for stopping by and checking this news release on National and NSW news and updates titled “Koalas, snakes, bats will benefit from wildlife hospital”. This article was posted by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local news services.

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Land Acquisition For Protecting Koalas Initiated By The NSW Government

The Government of NSW took initiative in expanding three national parks by a total of a thousand hectares in hopes of securing land for the state’s susceptible koala population. This was after the specie was ravaged during the bushfire season recently.

The new land will add 912 hectares to Cataract National Park three hours west of Byron Bay and 93 hectares combined to Maria National Park in Crescent Head near Kempsey and Bongil Bongil National Park just south of Coffs Harbour.

According to the Environment Minister Matt Kean, “This expansion of key areas of our national parks secure critical habitat across a number of animal and plant species, most notably our iconic koalas. You can’t save koalas without first protecting their habitat and the best way to do that is by fortifying and expanding our national parks, which is exactly what we are doing.”

The said land which is opted to be added to the Maria and Bongil Bongil parks were unscathed by the bushfires last summer, thus, becoming a refuge to other native and threatened species.

On the NSW’s threatened species list, koalas are designated as vulnerable, where about 20,000 to 30,000 animals are thought to be left in the wild. The fuzzy marsupials were hit hard by the bushfires, which burned critical habitat and killed more than 70 per cent of certain populations in areas studied recently by the World Wildlife Foundation.

The Government used money from its koala strategy fund to buy land from landowners and some government properties being reclassified. This $44.7 million koala strategy has $20 million allocated for land acquisitions to protect the koalas.

As per NSW national parks Chief Atticus Fleming “Some of the land might be the best habitat for koalas, and other parts might be important for connecting separate habitats.”

The connecting of habitats is imperative in giving koalas different family groups and a chance to mate, and having the land designated as parts of national parks means there will be conservation resources at hand to help the koalas thrive.

Another important thing is to cull feral wildlife that might disturb the sensitive koalas. “It also means development won’t occur on these lands. In national parks, trees can’t be cut down. That means it’s protected forever. The trees will be there for koalas in perpetuity,” Mr Fleming stated.

Fourteen Koalas Returned Home After 10 Months Of Rehabilitation

During the severe bushfires last summer, 14 koalas were badly burnt and were given emergency treatment at triage centres in East Gippsland.

Special RAAF jets were used to evacuate some animals for treatment by staff at Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo some were so badly burned, they had to have multiple surgeries and months of follow-up treatment.

Soon after, when they were well enough, they were transferred to large enclosures on Phillip Island and at Healesville for “rewilding” to help them regain their climbing strength and fitness before being released.

After 10 months of medical treatment and rehabilitation, the koalas have been nursed back and released into the bush in eastern Victoria close to where they were found.

On the weekend, the final eight animals were released into restored bushland in Mallacoota, where numerous homes were destroyed by fire.

Henny Gray from Zoos Victoria told media that it was a long road to recovery, she emphasized “these 14 koalas had really bad injuries so they took a lot of hospital treatment and care. Then once they are through that, we needed to rebuild their fitness.”

On release, each animal was fitted with a tracking device to help scientists monitor their progress and improve long-term outcomes for koalas returning to the wild. This was dubbed as the world’s first.

For Zoo Victoria senior vet Leanne Wicker “It was such a special moment to see these koalas — who have been through so much — finally returned to the wild.”

She also revealed to have felt a huge responsibility, and for all involved as well, to gradually rehabilitate these koalas. Yet, it is a real honour for them to now be able to bring them back to where they belong.

Dr Wicker said seeing two of the koalas get out of their boxes and run up a tree was “just the best. I remember saying to them: ‘Guys, I know this is a big day for you but I can’t wait, we’ll get you back, I promise’. And here we are and they’re both in trees around me and it’s pretty amazing actually,” she said.

She pointed out that releasing the pair of koalas in Mallacoota, despite being devastatingly injured before, was lovely for her.

Koalas badly injured in Victorian bushfires finally released back into the wild after long recovery

After 10 months of medical treatment and rehabilitation, 14 koalas that were badly burned in last summer’s bushfires have been nursed back to health and released back into the bush in eastern Victoria.

The koalas were given emergency treatment for severe burns at triage centres in East Gippsland.

Special RAAF jets were used to evacuate some animals for treatment by staff at Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo.

Some of the animals were so badly burned they had to have multiple surgeries and months of follow-up treatment.

When they were well enough, they were transferred to large enclosures on Phillip Island and at Healesville for “rewilding” to help them regain their climbing strength and fitness before being released.

It took months to treat injuries like this koala’s burned paw.(Supplied: Zoos Victoria)

Ten months after being rescued, six of the koalas were released into the bush in East Gippsland, close to where they were found.

On the weekend, the final eight animals were released into regenerated bushland around Mallacoota, where a number of homes were destroyed by fire.

A veterinarian and nurse care for an injured koala which is taking liquids from a syringe.
Dr Leanne Wicker (right) said it was so rewarding to see months of care pay off when the animals were released.(Supplied: Zoos Victoria)

Zoos Victoria’s Jenny Gray told ABC Radio Melbourne that it was a long road to recovery.

“These 14 [koalas] had really bad injuries so they took a lot of hospital treatment and care. Then once they are through that, we need to rebuild their fitness,” Dr Gray said.

A koala up a tree at Mallacoota.
This koala was released into bushland around Mallacoota after recovering from its injuries.(Supplied: Zoos Victoria)

In a world first, each animal was fitted with a tracking device to help scientists monitor their progress and improve long-term outcomes for koalas returning to the wild.

“It was such a special moment to see these koalas — who have been through so much — finally returned to the wild,” said Zoos Victoria senior vet Leanne Wicker said.

“It has been a huge undertaking and responsibility for all involved to slowly rehabilitate these koalas, and a real privilege to now be able to bring them back to their homes.”

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More than 60,000 koalas among three billion animals impacted by Australia’s Black Summer bushfires

More than 60,000 already vulnerable koalas were likely impacted by last summer’s devastating bushfires, with the total number of affected animals estimated to be at least three billion.

As bushfires once again flare up on Queensland’s Fraser Island, a new report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimated 143 million mammals were in the path of last summer’s bushfires as they tore through the country.

A further 2.46 billion reptiles, 181 million birds, and 51 million frogs were likely injured, killed, or lost their habitat, according to the report released on Monday.

Estimates suggest more than three billion animals were impacted by last summer’s horrific bushfires.


The new study, conducted by a team of researchers and scientists, followed an interim report by WWF in July that first estimated the toll of impacted animals to be three billion.

“It’s hard to think of an event in the world, in living memory, that has impacted so much on wildlife and nature,” chief executive of WWF Australia Dermot O’Gorman said. 

“These numbers are really off the charts and they drive home the unprecedented nature of the Australian bushfires which really require a massive response.”

More than 41,000 koalas on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island alone are estimated to have been impacted by the fires, with another 11,000 in Victoria and 8,000 in New South Wales believed to have been caught up in the disaster.

Mr O’Gorman said this was a “devasting number for a species that was already sliding towards extinction”. “We cannot afford to lose koalas on our watch,” he wrote in a foreword to the report.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry in June found koalas would become extinct in the state before 2050 without urgent government intervention to stem habitat loss.

Conservation groups have also called on the government to designate the iconic Australian marsupial, which are only native to NSW, Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, an endangered species in the wake of the bushfire crisis

One of the burned koalas rescued during Australia's Black Summer fires.

One of the burned koalas rescued during Australia’s Black Summer fires.


In addition to koalas, the report estimates nearly 40 million possums and gliders, 36 million antechinuses, dunnarts, and other insectivorous marsupials, 5.5 million bettongs, bandicoots, quokkas, and potoroos, five million kangaroos and wallabies, 1.1 million wombats and 114,000 echidnas suffered due to the crisis. 

Researchers said a lack of data on wildlife populations in 11.46 million hectares of fire-affected land meant it was difficult to determine how many animals were killed by the blazes, as opposed to injured or forced to flee their habitat.

“Even if resident animals were not killed outright by fires and managed to escape, they will surely have experienced higher subsequent risk of death as a result of injuries or later stress and deprivation of key resources,” the report read.

The report made 11 recommendations to ensure the recovery of wildlife populations after the crisis and better understand the scope of the crisis, including better mapping and monitoring of plants and animals in at-risk areas.

“More research is needed on how many animals are out there and their ability to survive different levels of fire intensity,” said Lily Van Eeden from the University of Sydney, who managed the research. “We need to understand this to protect species more effectively.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced a $2 million national “koala audit” in November to rectify “a serious lack of data” about where populations actually are and how they have recovered following the fires.

Other recommendations included developing a national standard for monitoring wildlife populations, protecting and improving habitats, and establishing fire prevention and management strategies, which includes drawing on traditional knowledge and practices. 

“People have been shocked by our research and have said to me ‘we can’t allow catastrophes of this magnitude to continue into the future’,” said the University of Sydney’s Professor Chris Dickman, who oversaw the research.

“With long-term monitoring, we would be in a much better position to know where and when to act and what resources are needed to save at-risk species.”

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Counting koalas won’t save national treasure – 16 News

A koala census won’t save our national treasure and a moratorium on the clearing of critical habitat is still urgently needed, the Greens say.

Responding to the Environment Minister’s announcement today of a koala census to identify key habitat, Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“A koala census won’t save our national treasure from the Morrison Government.

“Koalas have been counted in critical habitat areas only for the Government to ignore that data and approve mining and development projects that imperil the koalas calling that land home.

“Just last month, the Environment Minister approved a quarry at Pt Stephens which will destroy 52ha of critical habitat for the endangered species.

“Unless habitat clearing is stopped, koalas will soon be extinct.

“The Greens will move in the Parliament for a moratorium on habitat clearing to save the koala from extinction.

“Off the back of the worst bushfires in history which killed a third of NSW’s koala population and destroyed millions of hectares of habitat across the country, no approvals for developments on koala land should be given.

“The Morrison Government has had seven years to develop a recovery plan for the koala, a census isn’t enough, the species needs real protection under our national environment laws.

“It’s clear the government isn’t serious about saving the koala and cannot be trusted to protect it with or without a census.”

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Extinction of koalas means the death of our country’s soul

The governments of Australia are ignorant towards the significance of keeping our koalas alive, writes Sue Arnold.

AUSTRALIA IS AN ANCIENT, mystical continent. With its majestic rainforests, mountains, rivers, plains, deserts, forests, beaches and iconic, unique amazing wildlife, this is one magnificent country.

We live in a sacred place. Ask any Aboriginal Elder. Our land feeds the hungry soul.

In Dreaming stories, Koob-borr, the koala was the wise old man of the bush, the sage counsellor of the Aborigines who consulted him in all their difficulties. Men would ask his help and advice when departing on dangerous expeditions.

The Dreaming stories record that the mother koala shows the greatest devotion to her offspring and if robbed of her baby will cry piteously, as koalas do when hurt in any way.  Among some of the native tribes, the koalas were believed to be the souls of dead children. A belief readily understood by those who heard its heart-rending cries.

Mickey Ryan, Chairman of the Bundjalung Elders Council says:

“Our wildlife is becoming vulnerable everywhere. We’re losing the soul of the country. What’s happening here is downright murder.“

The reasons are straightforward. Koalas are dying as a direct result of governments’ policies of extermination. Defenceless wildlife is being deliberately wiped out because it’s in the way of development, infrastructure, forestry, urbanisation, mining and unsustainable population growth through high levels of immigration.

Our democracy is corrupted. Public interest legal rights have been repealed. There is no transparency. There are no policies to ensure habitat protection, no policies to address the cumulative impacts of development projects, logging, urbanisation — all destroying habitat, taking the lives of defenceless koalas and other forest-dependent species.

Every koala is now sacred. Unless the destruction orchestrated and approved by state and federal governments stops, koalas will go extinct in New South Wales. Queensland, Victoria and South Australia’s koalas are all lined up in the extinction queue.

Koalas are dying out now as their primary habitat is bulldozed, laws repealed, public interest denied. Politicians from the major parties turning their collective backs on the suffering and loss.

The Australian Government is in breach of its ratification of the Biodiversity Convention and the Convention on Migratory Species.

There’s a complete and deliberate failure of compliance and enforcement at the state and federal level.

Slim protections available under state and/or federal legislation have been repealed or replaced including memorandums of understanding and/or bilateral agreements.

In 2012, when the koala was listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act as “vulnerable”, a National Koala Recovery Plan was recommended.   No recovery plan has been developed.

Berejiklian Government backs koala extinction plan for Campbelltown

The National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy 2009-2014 has been a complete failure.

Federal koala referral guidelines are not mandatory and allow developers to self-refer if koalas are found on a project site. In some cases, koalas on site have been deliberately removed to ensure the project developer does not have to refer the development to the Federal Government.

Catastrophic bushfires caused by climate change killed more than 3 billion animals. Prior to the fires, drought dried out water holes, sucking the moisture out of leaves on which forest fauna depend for slaking their thirst.

Koalas died terrible deaths, firefighters have nightmares remembering their dreadful screams as the flames incinerated adults and joeys.

Communities up and down the country are fighting tooth and nail to try and save remaining koalas. People who have thrown all their resources into protecting our wildlife.    Frustrated, angry citizens whose petitions, emails, calls, are ignored by governments who just keep killing koalas.

The international outcry over koalas is unprecedented. Millions of dollars poured into the country in a global expression of compassion and concern — to no avail.

In 2015, Greg Hunt, then Minister for the Environment, signed the Common Assessment Method (CAM), agreed to by all state governments allowing one only national listing for a species. No regional listings were permitted.

Efforts to upgrade koalas federally to an “endangered” status are moving at snail’s pace with no decision likely until October 2021. So much for the Morrison Government’s concern.  The CAM is a further roadblock to any endangered listing as Victoria will claim high numbers of koalas in spite of no population estimate for over a decade or more thus ensuring no federal upgrade to “endangered”.

There are no emergency provisions in any state or federal legislation to protect wildlife species.

There are no dedicated national parks or protected reserves for koalas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified the koala as one of the ten most vulnerable species to climate change. Yet there are no climate change policies or refugia for koalas or recognition of the IUCN designation.

Offset policies are a further disaster. Developers can pay dollars to offset habitat destruction — a scheme which can only be described as madness. Once a habitat is destroyed, the home range of animals is permanently lost.   

Governments shift attention away from koala plight

Senate inquiry recommendations are ignored.  NSW Upper House inquiry recommendations are ignored. Respected Australian scientists with global recognition of their research are ignored. 

The terrible and catastrophic loss of koalas and other ecosystem-dependent wildlife is also a moral issue. One that should make every government bow its collective head in shame.

When a koala loses its home, their future survival is also lost. Stress kicks in, creating a weakened immune system, followed by chlamydia, cancers, leukemia, blindness, painful bladder infections and death.

Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, claims to be a strong Christian.

Yet the Bible makes clear the critical importance of environmental stewardship, highlighting the contradiction in Morrison’s extraordinary refusal to consider anything remotely resembling stewardship:

God has clearly placed humans in a position of responsibility over the creation. (1) Genesis 2:15 says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (2) We recognise that all created things belong to God (3) and that we are accountable to Him as stewards of the creation. God commissions us to rule over the creation in a way that sustains, protects, and enhances his works so that all creation may fulfil the purposes God intended for it. We must manage the environment not simply for our own benefit but for God′s glory.

As the NSW Government, through its National Party coalition partner, tries to shove yet another koala killing bill through the Parliament in spite of thousands of protests, Australians need to know we are on the verge of a historic, irreplaceable, avoidable loss.

According to a historic document by the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Protection Authority:

‘The power which the Spirit Ancestors give the land animates that land and its creatures. The land has a will, a life force of its own.’

We must act before that life force is terminally ill.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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