Cute, cuddly and fast breeding, thousands of koalas are eating themselves out of a home on an Australian island. But authorities are refusing to heed conservationists’ pleas to reduce the population, fearing a backlash from tourists and animal rights activists.

South Australia state Environment Minister John Hill said tourism would drop dramatically if koalas were killed on Kangaroo Island.

“We rely a lot on the international market for our tourists,” Hill told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, adding the issue was particularly sensitive in Japan.

The island’s estimated 30,000 koalas have stripped many of the island’s eucalyptus trees of leaves, the animal’s sole food source, and they could face eventual starvation.

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