Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Man fined $2800 for harassing koala

A VICTORIAN man has been fined almost $3000 for harassing a koala.

The 19-year-old from Bamawm, near Echuca, was camping in the Barmah State Park on March 22 when he tried to knock a koala from a tree by repeatedly ramming it with his vehicle.

Earlier, the man had found the koala at the base of a tree near his campsite, the Echuca Magistrates' Court heard.

The man wrapped the koala in his jumper, and released it into a nearby tree.

But when the koala started making a loud nose, the man tried to get it down by poking it with a stick, then later by ramming the tree with his Toyota Landcruiser ute.

A number of nearby campers who witnessed the incident alerted authorities, a statement from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) said.

After being interviewed by DSE wildlife officers, the man was charged with various offences under the Wildlife Act, National Parks Regulations and Land Conservation Regulations.

He was convicted and fined a total of $2800.

People can be prosecuted if they or their pets cause injury or death to koalas, which are protected under the Wildlife Act. Under the Act, offenders can be be fined up to $24,000 or imprisoned for 12 months for the unlawful possession of wildlife.

Intentionally causing the death of a protected species attracts fines up to $5000 or six months imprisonment.

"This is clearly inappropriate behaviour and I would encourage members of the public to report similar incidents to DSE or the police," DSE wildlife officer Greg Chant said.

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