On a property at Swan Bay in the Richmond Valley, eight koalas sit high in the trees enjoying a scrumptious eucalyptus feast. It’s dinner and a show as they watch a group of people plant thousands of trees that will grow into new food and shelter in just a few years.
The group of tree planters from WWF-Australia, Bangalow Koalas, East Coast Bush Regeneration and Minyumai IPA Rangers have come together to plant 2,000 koala feed trees and 1,500 wildlife corridor trees for the koala colony that have made a home among the gum trees on the property of an organic farm.
Linda Sparrow from Bangalow Koalas has experience in koala habitat restoration, having successfully planted koala food trees on other properties on Australia’s east coast. She’s excited to see how this tree planting will help koalas in the Richmond Valley area.
“The first time I came to this property there were 13 koalas and I was beside myself. Every time I come here there are koalas. There are eight here today including a mother with a pouch young. I just love working with people who are committed to saving the koalas and we’re going to keep helping them plant as much as they want on this property.”
The pouch young will mature as the trees come to fruition. Hopefully, when it’s grown, they will then go on to have a joey of their own to enjoy the trees their grandparent watched being planted.
WWF-Australia conservation scientist, Dr Stuart Blanch, is one of the team’s tree planters. Stuart loves this part of his job, working with landowners who want to make a difference to support koalas.
“It’s so wonderful to work with people who volunteer a portion of their farm to welcome koalas and other wildlife back on their land.”
“Trees are rainmakers, so the trees planted will also help keep the landscape healthy and nutrient rich in the future.”
Koalas continue to move to the Richmond Valley in search of shelter in areas where eucalyptus trees grow. Drought, deforestation and Australia’s 2019-20 bushfires have driven them out of their home. The bushfires destroyed up to 30% of koala habitat across NSW, and it’s estimated that more than 6,300 koalas were killed in NSW alone. People need to protect and develop the koala habitats that remain.
Stuart said the last year has been very hard for people who love nature.
“The bushfires on top of the drought have taken an enormous toll. And deforestation in eastern Australia is still happening at terrible rates. So we all need hope. And today we’ve seen there is a bit of hope.”
In the years to come, the koalas will move along the tree corridors as they need more space, repopulating areas where koalas once lived. Then we will see an increase in the number of koalas in the wild.
Swan Bay tree planting is one of the incredible projects WWF-Australia has been able to fund thanks to the supporters who donated to the Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund.
Koalas have been doing it tough for many years now. There’s been a huge drop in numbers in the wild and, by 2050, they are on track to be extinct in New South Wales. The major contributors to this are land clearing and climate change, however, Australia’s catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires have made their plight even worse. In 2012, koalas were listed as vulnerable under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, yet since then koala habitat clearing has increased. The federal government must create stronger legislation to protect Australia’s unique wildlife before it’s too late.
To learn more about how you can support the Swan Bay koala colony, and the rest of Australia’s irreplaceable species, visit wwf.org.au/endextinction.
END ANIMAL EXTINCTION