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Koalas overcrowded down under

baby November 30, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)

(CNN) -- One of Australia's most endearing symbols, the koala bear, may be multiplying too fast for its own good on Kangaroo Island.

About 5,000 of the real-life teddy bears inhabit the island off the southern coast of Australia -- nearly twice the limit of 3,000 recommended by wildlife officials.

There just aren't enough eucalyptus trees to go around.

"The ecosystem is under threat, not just for koalas but for everything else," said Hugh Possingham of the Koala Management Task Force.


"More trees will die, koalas will start starving and eventually they'll die -- and they'll die a long, slow, prolonged death."

But an environment official rejects the idea of culling the koala population, vowing none of the animals will be killed.

"I don't believe that's appropriate," said David Wotton, State Environment Minister. "I think we need to look at this in the long-term, at fertility control and translocation of koalas."


Even so, other officials say moving or sterilizing the marsupials isn't practical, and that killing 2,000 of the koalas is the most humane solution.

Whatever decision is made, it will have to be made quickly, before nature resolves the problem with starvation.

Correspondent Chris Riker contributed to this report.


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