More than 250 animal cruelty charges have been laid after the deaths of 70 koalas at Cape Bridgewater in February last year.
Department of Environment, Land, Water, Planning a short time ago announced a property owner and two other companies had been charged with 253 animal cruelty offences for their alleged involvement in the injury or death of dozens of koalas in early 2020.
The department said the landowner faced 126 charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and the Wildlife Act 1975, including 18 aggravated cruelty charges for allegedly causing fatal injuries.
A forest and earthmoving business is facing the same 126 charges.
The man and business are accused of clearing habitat which wounded or killed dozens of koalas, which are a protected species.
The department said a separate contracting business had also been charged with one cruelty offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 for disturbing the koala population.
The matter is listed for the Portland Magistrates Court on February 22.
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It comes after a lengthy investigation by the conservation regulator, after forest and wildlife officers responded to reports of injured and starving koalas at the Cape Bridgewater property.
A triage centre was set up to assess the koalas, a total of 21 were found dead on-site and a further 49 koalas euthanised.
It is alleged 70 koalas in total were identified as experiencing, or likely to experience pain or suffering in the form of starvation and/or dehydration and 25 of those koalas had also sustained fractures.
More than 120 koalas were released directly from the incident site back into the wild, with more than 70 animals taken into care and of those around 60 were released from care into the wild.
The maximum penalty for one charge of aggravated animal cruelty leading to death is $218,088 for a business and $90,870 or two years imprisonment for an individual.
The maximum penalty for one charge of animal cruelty is $109,044 for a business and $45,435 or 12-months jail for an individual.
The maximum penalty for one charge of illegally hunting, taking or destroying protected wildlife is $9087 and/or six months imprisonment. An additional fine of up to $908 per head of wildlife may also apply.
Chief conservation regulator Kate Gavens said the destruction of protected wildlife was a serious offence.
"We understand the community's concerns about this case and we have ensured a thorough investigation which led to these charges," she said.
"Our investigation included gathering a large volume of evidence from the crime scene, as well as mobile devices and witness statements. Techniques such as forensic radiography and pathology were undertaken on all deceased animals discovered on the property to assist in determining when and how the animals died.
"Animal cruelty and destruction of protected wildlife are serious offences and the conservation regulator is continuing its focus on detecting and investigating these crimes."
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