G’day Nature Lovers,
Let’s face it, there are not many people on this planet who don’t think koalas are adorable, me included. The problem is that without their habitat (dry sclerophyll forests), there would be no koalas, and thanks to “human progress” they are losing their habitat at record rates. So yesterday I helped out with a tree planting event at Bangalow.
Like most of Australian mammals, Koala’s are marsupials and their young are called joeys. They usually have one joey per year. They live for about 10-12 years. They are not sleepy because they are stoned, they only eat Eucalyptus leaves, which aren’t that nutritious and they are conserving their energy by sleeping about 18 hours a day. They are great agile climbers and can be quite quick when on the ground changing trees, which they can do a few times a day.
Before white man arrived in Australia there were an estimated 10,000,000 koalas in Australian, now there are an estimated 100,000. Koala numbers plummeted by a third in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010.
Unfortunately there are many threats for koalas. They have a disease called Chlamydia, which if left untreated can kill them. They also have a retro virus like HIV. When they are changing trees they can be attacked by dogs and run over by cars. But there biggest threat is habitat loss.
I take people out to see koalas in the wild every week. I think in the imagination of the participants is that we will go on a hike through the forest and see loads of koalas. But the unfortunate reality of this is that we see koalas in little pockets of habitat, often on regenerated habitat. Overseas visitors are miffed that we are not doing everything we can to protect these adorable icons. I then explain that koalas don’t have any money and that greedy developers, mining magnates and our corrupt political system are a formidable foe. Let’s not forget these are the same players who think it’s a great idea to put the world’s biggest coal mine on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
Recently the NSW State government made a decision to take the new Pacific Highway through koala habitat, when they could have taken it through sugar cane farms. I think most people would agree we need more koalas and less sugar, but the koalas lost out. So far at least 4 koalas have died in this area and the highway hasn’t even opened yet. Then there is the logging of koala habitat in places like Limpinwood, and the forests around Coffs Harbour, not to mention the habitat destruction in South East Queensland.
What can we do?
If we don’t do something to abate their habitat loss, we will lose these iconic Aussie animals forever. We need to stop the logging and destruction of their habitat and replant their trees.
National Parks Association has proposed a Great Koala National Park by adding 175,000ha of state forests to existing protected areas to form a 315,000ha reserve in the Coffs Harbour hinterland. Would be a good start, but they are still fighting for this.
Yesterday when I saw that the Bangalow Koalas group were planting 1400 trees to create a wildlife corridor, I donned by gloves, boots and hat and joined them. The Friends of the Koala group spend a lot of resources propagating koala food trees for groups and land owners who are happy to create koala habitat on their land. The trees that are planted are not a monoculture, it is a mixture of trees, bushes and grasses that together create an environment that mimics the kind of complex ecological system that once supported loads of wildlife including of course koalas.
Before the planting day, the grass was cut, holes dug, and then trained bush regenerators assign appropriate seedlings to the holes. Then on the day the volunteers, put plant the seedlings and put mulch around it. The mulch keeps the weeds at bay, retains moisture and provides nutrients. It only took about 2 hours to plant 1400 trees.
I’m a little stiff and sore today, but feel very happy that I’ve done my bit to help protect koalas, I will certain volunteer to do it again. If you want to help with the next koala tree planting event, contact your nearest Koala group.
To enjoy nature, we need to protect nature.