Australia’s largest exporter of eucalyptus woodchips has apologised after being stripped of its environmental certification for harming koalas.
In July, ABC’s 7.30 reported that thousands of koalas had been killed or injured as loggers moved in to harvest blue gum timber plantations in south-eastern Australia.
Woodchip exporter Australian Bluegum Plantations (ABP), which was named in the program, initially denied the claims via the environmental certification authority, the Forest Stewardship Council of Australia (FSC).
However, the claims were investigated by an international environmental auditor, and the recently released report was damning.
‘Given the numbers of koalas that continue to be injured, killed or found in poor health (e.g. suffering from pneumonia due to exposure)… ABP is not taking sufficient steps to recognise the extent of the issue,’ the report by the Rainforest Alliance said.
The company was issued six major non-conformances, or significant failures, in how they managed wildlife during operations.
Per FSC rules, suspension is required when five or more major non-conformances are found.
The forestry giant apologised when asked by 7.30 whether they felt any guilt over the harm caused to koalas.
‘We are deeply sorry for the fact that koalas have been harmed on our property. Deeply sorry,’ said ABP chief executive Tony Price, who had to step aside as FSC chairman during the audit.
‘We are very, very keen to make sure that going forward we do everything we can to avoid harming koalas.’
Mr Price, who remains on the FSC board, wouldn’t answer whether he’d now step down as a leader on the forestry council.
‘We are focused on addressing some findings in an audit that we’ve just had and our intention would be to get those corrective actions closed out, get them signed off by the auditor and then have our certification reinstated,’ he said.