Australian police are investigating after a koala was discovered screwed to a wooden post by staff at a local animal shelter.

A picture of the incident has been widely shared on social media in the latest case of animal cruelty in the county. It is believed the animal may have been alive when it was "cruelly attached" to the beam. The incident happened at a lookout at Brooloo Park, a town 85 miles (140km) north of Brisbane, Queensland.

Staff at Koala Rescue Queensland posted a picture of the dead animal in a Facebook post on Wednesday (11 January) and has been shared 4,000 times by outraged animal rights activists. Their post read: "All is not as it seems in this photo. This poor koala has been screwed to the pole with building screws, he is deceased, but whether or not he was when cruelly attached to the structure is unknown. If anyone can help find the culprits please contact us or police. Incident took place at Brooloo Park Lookout today."

"We are cooperating with RSPCA investigators who can better investigate. Please if anyone knows or suspects anything or anyone contact RSPCA directly. We are trying to keep our phone lines free for other call outs at the moment," they added.

The picture shows the animal with its arms wrapped around the pole and holding a branch of gum leaves. Social media users have widely condemned the culprit on social media:

"Hope someone knows why and who done this and come forward. They need then to cop the full force of the law. Not just a measly little fine," one person commented.

The RSPCA says it will conduct an autopsy on the animal to discover how it died. "This is very disturbing," Queensland RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said. "Whether or not the koala was dead, how somebody would think this was in some way humorous, when little kids go to that lookout area, is beyond me."

The incident is just the latest case in animal cruelty in the region; In November a dead koala was discovered with its ears slashed off on a roadside near Melbourne. Police there described the incident as "troublesome and disgusting."

"There's no reason for anybody to wish to treat an animal in this way, whether alive or dead," Sgt. Pat Day said.

Australia's koala population is in steep decline due to receding habitats and numerous bush fires. There are believed to be just 100,000 left alive in the wild.