It’s 8am on a Saturday in Byron. Rain clouds loom on the horizon. The land has been drenched with days of rain, but today we are all hoping for sunshine.
We are planting 1500 koala trees on Irish comedian Jimeoin’s property. Jimeoin is the latest in a swathe of private landholders in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, who have taken it into their own hands to help safeguard the local koala population. They are allowing sections of their properties to be re-planted with eucalyptus trees to provide koalas a safe haven and passage through the landscape.
This initiative is the brainchild of local community group Bangalow Koalas, whose mission is to restore a koala corridor from Byron Bay to Repentance Creek. IFAW is thrilled to partner with Bangalow Koalas to support this ambitious project. And today is our first joint planting event.
A neighboring landowner has kindly opened up his paddock to access the steep land behind Jimeoin’s property. A steady stream of cars arrives, spilling out grandparents, grandchildren, locals, and tourists from as far as Germany and the UK. Over 120 people arrive all wearing gumboots and big smiles. With trowels in hand, undeterred by the rain and the mud, they stand united by one goal — to plant koala trees and secure a future for the species.
The land has been prepared, the holes helpfully pre-dug and the saplings provided. It truly was a case of many hands make light work. Together, we planted 1500 trees in one hour. We were sure to choose the koalas’ favorite local food trees: red gum, swamp mahogany, tallow wood, and the medicinal melaleuca that koalas instinctively eat when they are sick.
As people packed up and surveyed their work, a fortuitous rainbow bridged the sky between rain showers and the sunshine. Young children, covered in mud, looked on proudly at their freshly planted saplings, a symbol of hope for future generations. The trees grow quickly in the lush climate and in a few years, they will be a home for not only koalas, but also a host of birds and native wildlife. Jimeoin has had koalas on his land and hopes that by planting trees, they will be encouraged to stay.
The community’s commitment to safeguarding their local koalas is incredible and an inspiration to all.
With today’s media, we are bombarded with doomsday messages of loss and impending extinction of Australia’s endemic koalas. And yes, it is true, koalas are in trouble. But it is important to remember that there is hope and there is solution. And this solution is in our own hands, literally. Every one of us has a part to play in securing a future for koalas and the places they call home.
Together with Bangalow Koalas, our aim is to plant 25,000 trees by the end of the year. We believe this can be achieved through sheer people power.
Every koala matters, every person matters, every tree matters. There is a way for people and koalas to thrive together. Let’s get to work!
A big thank you to everyone who came to the planting. Special thanks to Jimeoin, Linda Sparrow, Bangalow Koalas, Rosscoe and the team from East Coast Bush Regeneration. And to Greg for kindly allowing us access via his property.
-Josey Sharrad, Native Wildlife Campaigner Oceania
Wildlife Rescue - AustraliaAustralia has one of the highest mammal extinction rates in the world
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