29 Sept 2023
A NEW DRIVING FORCE FOR NORTHERN RIVERS KOALAS: WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
Sometimes, the simplest changes can make the largest difference.
WWF-Australia partner and vitally important conservation group Friends of the Koala have two new tools in their fight to save koalas in the Northern Rivers.
Thanks to a , Friends of the Koala are now equipped with a branded electric vehicle and, perhaps more importantly, a volunteer coordinator to support their work in rescuing and caring for koalas.
Coordinating the team
An army of volunteers is required to protect koalas. 240 in fact.
Along with the koala carers and veterinarians that might immediately come to mind, there are also volunteers that make up the leafing crew, the team that organise koala feed every day. There are the people manning the 24-hour hotline (Friends of the Koala took over 4,700 calls last year) and the subsequent rescuers that get dispatched to those calls at all hours of the day and night.
There’s the nursery staff that work across habitat restoration activities to get more koala food trees in the ground. And let’s not forget the cleaning team that keep the koala enclosures spick and span.
The complexity behind Friends of the Koala’s operations, and the large group of passionate people donating their time to help, is exactly why Koala has helped to fund a Volunteer coordinator position. And this is where Jennifer Redolfi comes in.
“The word coordinator is the way to go! It’s just coordinating everything,” says Jennifer, who goes by Jen.
“I train volunteers, I do inductions for volunteers. One minute a key won’t work, or the next minute the car needs new tires… someone can’t open the shed.”
“It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s ‘Jen! Hey Jen! Do you know how to do that?’” she laughs.
Having a person to manage this large and passionate group of volunteers and oversee everything that goes along with the day-to-day running of the center can ensure Friends of the Koala has the greatest impact in their work to conserve koala populations.
“I think the funding from WWF and Koala is so important with this position,” says Jen.
“I work five days a week looking after our people because if we don’t look after our people, who’s going to look after our koalas!”
“Everyone's talking about koalas, but not many people are talking about the people behind the koalas,” she continues.
“Every volunteer here is so committed and so dedicated… that it’s really just a pleasure to be here.”
Accelerating change for koalas
The electric van is another example of a simple but critical piece of support that enables Friends of the Koala to do its day to day work.
The van transports trees from the on-site nursery to landholders and schools to plant them where they’re needed most.
“This year we reached a milestone of distributing the 800,000th tree from our nursery,” says Silva Everaers, General Manager of Friends of the Koala.
“The electric van is being used by our nursery team every single day. We use it for habitat restoration and working with local landholders to get koala food trees into the ground, and other native plant species as well.”
WWF-Australia’s Senior Manager for Koala Recovery Tanya Pritchard says while the van has already transported over 43,000 trees to date, it also plays an important role in spreading awareness of Friends of the Koala and their work.
“Koala’s support has helped buy the most amazing electric van,” says Tanya.
“It goes on educational excursions, taking volunteers and staff to schools and other areas to provide really important information to the community about what they can do to recover koalas.”
“We go to events, schools, markets; basically any place where we can connect with the community and teach them about the threats koalas face and how they can get involved with helping them,” says Silva.
This is all the more important considering that, besides the multitude of threats koalas are facing, koala trauma season is upon us.
Between July to December koalas are on the move looking for a mate, which sadly means they have a greater risk of getting hit by a car or attacked by dogs.
That’s why it’s so crucial that the community are given this information, but also know who to call when this happens. New branding ensures Friends of the Koala’s contact details are displayed all over the van, reminding the public about their work.
“It’s really important that community members reach out to us when a koala is unwell, so we can get them to them as soon as possible and so they can get treated in our hospital,” Silva continues.
“I guess it’s kind of teamwork! It takes a lot of people to spot the koalas that need help… working together with our 240 volunteers that basically do anything that needs to happen.”
“And we’re incredibly grateful for the funding from WWF and Koala.”