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March 3, 2015 11:21 PM EST

Authorities in southern Australia secretly killed hundreds of koalas in an effort to control their population, a state minister revealed on Wednesday.

A total of 686 of the furry marsupials from Cape Otway in the state of Victoria were sedated and euthanized by wildlife officials in 2013 and 2014, Australian news channel ABC reported.

“It is clear it’s an overpopulation issue and it is clear that we have had koalas suffer in that Cape Otway area because of ill health and starvation,” said Lisa Neville, the state’s environment minister.

Neville stressed a desire to be “transparent” with the Australian people in the future and said a koala-management program would be put in place for the iconic native animals, many of whom also die naturally because of lack of food.


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