11 May 2023

HOW PLANTING TREES CAN SAVE KOALAS

Take action now to prevent the extinction of our unique Australian animals, including koalas, eastern quolls, and green sea turtles. Your tax-deductible donation can help restore their homes, protect them from predators and ensure their survival in the face of climate change.

Have you ever wondered how koala habitat restoration actually works? Look no further than Bangalow Koalas! 

This community-driven organisation is dedicated to protecting and restoring koala habitat in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. This area is home to some of Australia’s endangered koala population, so it’s crucial they have more than enough trees to feed, breed and move about in safely.

We chatted with Linda Sparrow, the President of Bangalow Koalas, to talk about all things tree planting and how everyone can get involved to help save these iconic marsupials.

What’s the story behind Bangalow Koalas?

In 2016, there were concerns a 400-metre stretch of known koala habitat was under threat from a developer. The trees had been standing there for at least 30 years, and koalas had been spotted in the area. As a passionate advocate for koalas, I knew we couldn’t let them lose their homes. So myself and a team of locals rallied together to save the trees.

To gain support for our cause, we printed flyers and posted them around the town, urging people to report any koala sightings to the local council to prove koalas were there and they needed our help. 

Bangalow Koalas president Linda Sparrow and WWF conservationist Tanya Pritchard embraced the mud during the tree planting event
Bangalow Koalas president Linda Sparrow and WWF conservationist Tanya Pritchard embraced the mud during the tree planting event © Property Shot Photography

We organised a community koala tree planting event on a property on the western edge of town. We received overwhelming support from the community, with 85 volunteers coming forward to help that very first planting. The media got wind, and next thing we knew, other local landholders were reaching out to plant koala food and habitat trees on their properties. 

We had our first official planting as Bangalow Koalas in 2019, and since then, with the help of our donors and supporters, we’ve completed over 100 plantings on 75 properties across six shires. We’ve planted more than 270,000 koala habitat trees so far, and we plan to have 500,000 new trees in the ground by 2025. To me, each one of those 500,000 trees planted is a seed of hope. Hope for the future of koalas, and hope for the future of our environment. 

Why is planting koala habitat trees so important?

Koalas are a beloved and iconic animal, but sadly, Australia’s east coast populations are listed as Endangered to extinction. They face a multitude of threats from human interference - between habitat loss and dangers from roads and dogs, the list of risks continues to grow. If we don’t take action to help them now, they won’t stand a chance. 

That’s why organisations like Bangalow Koalas are so important. Our mission is to give koalas the habitat they need not just to survive but to thrive.

To do this, we’re working towards creating koala corridors that connect koala habitats across the Northern Rivers region. These corridors will provide safe and accessible passages for koalas to travel through to avoid road risks and human interaction. 

What impact have the tree plantings had so far?

It’s amazing to see the positive impact of koala habitat restoration. Koalas are being spotted in places they were never recorded before. The excitement from landholders reporting scratch marks and koala scats on their properties is incredible. One landholder recently told me that since planting trees two years ago, she’d seen more koalas on her property than she has in the past 20 years.

During our tree planting events, we’re sometimes lucky enough to spot koalas in the wild. At one event, we’d been working hard planting all morning, and during lunch, someone looked up and shouted, “There’s a koala!”. Sure enough, there was this fuzzy little animal curled up in a branch. Seeing that really gave everyone a renewed sense of energy to keep planting throughout the afternoon. It’s moments like those that remind me of what a great impact we’re making.

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© WWF-Australia / Free Vreman

As the koala corridor expands, more people are getting involved and becoming wildlife aware. Whether it’s offering their land for tree plantings or simply being more cautious when driving, this kind of impact is critical for the survival of koalas. After the 2019-20 bushfires and the 2022 floods, we saw a spike in people supporting our tree plantings. It’s very heartening to see that even during times of hardship, people still come together to help our wildlife. 

How can people get involved and help koalas?

Everyone can get involved to help our koalas. One of the most effective ways is to make a tax-deductible donation to WWF-Australia in support of koala habitat restoration. Your donation could help us plant trees to build koala habitats that provide essential food and shelter for koalas in Northern NSW. Additionally, keep an eye on Bangalow Koalas' social media for upcoming community tree planting events.