HomeArticlesLifestyle NewWorking together to protect Gold Coast koalas

Working together to protect Gold Coast koalas

Emily Toxward | January 2019

The koala is one of Australia’s most iconic and loved animals.  With koala populations under pressure across Australia, the City of Gold Coast is taking a lead role and creating a campaign to preserve and nurture the local population.

In 2018 the City made national headlines for introducing an Australia-first $10.85 million ‘koala fund‘ to protect the furry mammal and conserve its unique biodiversity through the future purchase of koala habitat across the Gold Coast.

The City of Gold Coast is passionate about shining a spotlight on the locally significant koala population through its Koala Conservation Plan.

The plan features 62 actions that seek to conserve and restore habitat, manage threats from traffic, bushfire, dogs and feral animals, and support koala welfare. The people behind the plan, the City’s dedicated Vulnerable Species Management Team, are passionate about informing Gold Coasters on how they can make a difference to the long-term sustainability of the vulnerable species and their habitat.

As well as introducing the Koala Fund, in 2018 the City endorsed Parkwood-Coombabah as a new Priority Koala Conservation Area; held 12 tree planting days as part of its NaturallyGC program; planted 13,040 koala food and habitat trees and provided new medical equipment to the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital to improve koala health and welfare outcomes.

To further highlight the importance of koala conservation, the City has also installed koala speed awareness signs, hosted conservation walks, and importantly, managed a Koala Friends Program in partnership with Wildcare Australia and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS). Boasting over 700 members, those involved are kept updated on the local koala population and how they can help.

Crucially, the City also maintains an active database of koala sightings and uses the information gathered to identify current and potential black spots on local roads, monitor population trends, target community education and inform bushfire planning.

Mayor Tom Tate said the long-term sustainability of koala populations was a priority for the coast. Mayor Tate has overseen an agreement between the City and the CWS, whereby thousands of eucalyptus trees are grown on public land.

The 15-year deal, known as the Merrimac Koala Eucalyptus Plantation Agreement, will see Council provide the land, and irrigation of it, for $1 a year. Sanctuary staff and volunteers will plant, maintain and harvest the trees, delivering leaves to koalas receiving life-saving care.

Mayor Tate said the agreement was a great example of the City using its existing assets for the benefit of wildlife. “Through our Koala Conservation Plan, we provide ongoing support for plantations to be established in suitable areas of land for wild koalas receiving veterinary care and treatment,” he said.

He said more than 500 wild koalas will benefit from additional food supply yearly, with a further 20,000 trees to be planted at Merrimac’s Koala Eucalyptus Plantation. The planting will bring the total number of trees to 35,000 and increase the plantation size to 118,000 square metres. Meanwhile, the City also collaborates with Wildcare to maintain another plantation of 2000 trees at Tallebudgera.

Dr Michael Pyne, senior veterinarian at CWS’s hospital, said the partnership will ensure certainty for koala food supply until 2032, which is pretty important considering it takes 1000 trees a year to support the eating habits of one koala.

“Our hospital is experiencing a surge in koalas requiring treatment and we need access to more food. Over the previous year the hospital has treated 400 koalas, compared to 10 years ago when it only treated 30 koalas per year,” he said.

“We’re urging Gold Coasters to slow down on roads that highlight koala crossings, keep dogs in from dusk until dawn so they don’t attack moving koalas, and report all sightings. The more information we have the more we can do, because the data goes back to the City and is used by its Vulnerable Species Management Team to help preserve the habitat of local koalas.”

Dr Pyne said one of the biggest challenges the hospital faced was feeding koalas. He trusts the community will help support the treatment and care of these beautiful Aussie icons by supporting its Tree to Me Program, whereby a $10 donation can help the hospital continue planting eucalypt trees.

The City of Gold Coast supports landholders across approximately 4800 hectares for conservation purposes whilst also caring for 13,000 hectares of publicly owned City natural areas. As one of Australia’s most biodiverse cities, they are also encouraging more locals jump on board in championing these furry creatures. It’s imploring Gold Coasters to get involved in planting days, join the Koala Friends Program and become koala-minded.

5 ways you can help protect Gold Coast koalas

10 interesting koala facts

  • Despite its bear-like appearance, the koala is actually a marsupial, or pouched mammal.
  • A female koala carries her baby in her pouch for about six months after birth.
  • Infant koalas are fed ‘pap’ a specialised form of faeces or droppings that allows it to make the transition from milk to eucalyptus leaves.
  • Koalas live in eastern Australia, where the eucalyptus trees they love are plentiful.
  • During the day they sleep for up to 18 hours and rarely leave the trees.
  • They store snacks of leaves in pouches in their cheeks.
  • Having a special digestive system, a long gut, means they can break down the eucalyptus leaves and not be harmed by its poison.
  • Koalas eat so many of these leaves they often take on a distinctive odour from the oil, a bit like cough drops.
  • They were widely hunted for their fur in the 1920 and 1930s and their populations plunged.
  • Koalas need a lot of space, about 100 trees for animals, a pressing problem as Australia’s woodlands continue to shrink.

Source: National Geographic & Save the Koala

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