Koala Watch: Community led Koala recovery in the Northern Rivers

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Koala Watching  provides the key to reversing the decline

The Koala Watch: Community-led Koala Recovery in the Northern Rivers Project, assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust, got well under way in the last 12 months. We and our koalas need more people in local communities where koalas live to be koala aware and report sightings of distressed, sick or injured koalas early for treatment. These workshops will provide local communities with information to assist our koala populations, including: becoming a koala watcher; understanding and managing koala habitat; fire planning and management with koalas in mind; and developing and implementing a wild dog control program in your local community. This article provides a summary of what we achieved in 2018 and what is in stall for 2019.

What we did in 2018

Over 120 people across the Northern Rivers attended Koala Watch workshops in Murwillumbah, Broken Head, Meerschaum Vale, Goonellabah, Kyogle and Broadwater.  These workshops provided people in local communities where koalas reside with the skills to identify a koala in need of care, as well as the environmental changes and triggers that may see an increase in koalas in need of care. The key message of the first workshop, Becoming a Koala Watcher was by identifying and in turn rescuing sick koalas early, increases the chances of successful treatment. It was well received by attendees, and the increased number of sightings reported by workshop attendees is a fantastic outcome.

The second Koala Watch workshop and field day, Understanding and Managing Koala Habitat, was delivered at East Lismore, Pottsville, Tyagarah, Meerschaum Vale, Wadeville  and  Riley’s Hill to 120 people. This workshop and field day was also well received by attendees.  The key messages for this workshop – koala habitat is simple, koala use of habitat is complex and habitat removal, loss and disturbance can have profound impacts on local koala colonies and populations – continued to inspire the attendees to keep doing what they can to help our koalas. We also ran an evening Koala Information Session for 15 Ballina residents covering a range of information from the Koala Watch and Understanding and Managing Koala Habitat workshops.

Koala Watch activities were delivered to just over 200 school students and their teachers. One hundred and forty four students from Years 1-5 from Wyrallah Road Public School, St. Carthages, and Cape Byron attended Koala Watch activities for World Environment Day. Eighteen students from Lismore High School’s Year 11 Ecology class attended the Wilsons River Tidal Pool Schools Education and Restoration project. Over 40 students from St. Joseph’s Public School at Coraki attended a Koala Watch and Koala Education morning. All students learnt about protecting and enhancing biodiversity by creating and restoring corridors and habitat for native fauna, specifically the threatened koala. These covered koala biology and ecology, knowing what to look for when koalas are spotted, whether a koala is healthy or needs our help, koala watching tips, how to report koala sightings and monitoring koalas, where  they are located and the signs to look for.

A Koala Watch Kit has been prepared and provided to workshop attendees and to members of the public. The Koala Watch Kit includes the Put it in Your Phone poster, a Friends of the Koala magnet, sticker and wallet card, koala brochures, koala watching tips, identifying physical and behavioural signs of healthy koalas and those in need of care, and koala habitat identification and information. Team Koala in the Tweed has made the information in the Koala Watch Kit into a booklet for further distribution  around the Tweed Shire.

Two Koala Watch Glovebox Guides were prepared and widely disseminated. They look excellent and are another tool in the toolbox for educating the broader community about identifying koalas in need of care and koalas and roads. Feedback from the broader community has been fantastic. We have even had some sick koalas reported based on members of the public having the glovebox guides.

Koala Watch attended the North Coast National Lismore Show with an excellent stall. We reached over 400 people from a broad range of the community. Many of these people have koalas on their properties or in their local area. They didn’t know what signs to look for and now they do.

We also were present at the Jabiru Wetlands on 3 February to provide attendees with koala watching information and to celebrate World Wetland Day. Our koalas are reliant upon forested wetlands as everyday habitat but also when the landscape is experiencing extended dry periods or drought. These habitats will be very important for koalas trying to survive climate change.

Koala Watch will continue to take advantage of events such as this in 2019.

What we are doing in 2019

If you would like to know more about koala habitat come along to one of our free Koala Watch Workshops.

Developing and Implementing a Property Fire Management Plan workshops are currently being planned in each of the Northern Rivers council areas between April and August, including Uki, Broken Head, Meerschaum Vale, Coraki, Larnook and Wadeville. These workshops are a partnership between Friends of the Koala, the Rural Fire Service, and local Councils. Participants will learn about bushfire planning, fire and vegetation, fire and koalas, what to include in a property fire management plan and how to go about implementing it. All attendees will be given a Koala Watch Kit and a Fire Management Resource Kit. Check out our website under Events for further information.

Understanding and Managing Wild Dogs: Protection of Livestock and Wildlife  workshops will also be held in partnership with Local Land Services and local Councils throughout the year.

We will be going out to more schools and finalising the Koala Watch Schools package. Schools we will be visiting include Cabbage Tree Island, Rous, Broadwater, and Evans Head K-12 Public Schools, with a follow-up visit to St. Joseph’s at Coraki. We will be at the World Environment Day and Upcycle at Lismore Recycling Centre. 

Our workshops  are supported by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust, and include morning tea, lunch and Koala Watch Kits. To RSVP, for more information, or if you would like a Koala Watch event at your school, or for your local community group, or in your local area, contact Maria Matthes, Koala Watch Project Coordinator on 0467 855 990 or email maria@healinghistory.com.au