Wild Koala Day: Friends of the Koala, Lismore Native Nursery

 

This Wild Koala Day, we’re celebrating Mark – a hero for all koalas. 

Mark isn’t your everyday volunteer. He’s one of the exceptionally committed ones, the ones who inspire us all.   

In fact, Mark has volunteered his time and energy for enough years now to earn him at least three rounds of long service leave! He’s been a volunteer for Friends of the Koala (FoK) – a Koala Care Centre – for 31 years and has no plans to stop anytime soon, continuing to be driven by his passion for horticulture and regeneration of the natural world around him.  

Established in 1989, in Lismore NSW, Friends of the Koala (FoK) is a not-for-profit, volunteer run Koala Care Centre that provides not just rescue, medical care and rehabilitation for sick and injured koalas, but also grows, distributes and plants koala food and habitat trees throughout the region to support koalas in the wild. Their native plant nurseries are the core of their work to provide secure homes and food sources for local koalas.   

And for Mark, his passion started with knowing the importance of growing these trees.  

FoK started as a tree planting group to care for koalas on the North Coast, and it’s one of the only koala care groups in Australia that does habitat work in addition to care, with most others focusing on Koala rescue and medical care. Rescued koalas need secure habitat to return to, and we have always put a lot of effort into protecting and creating koala habitat through the nursery.”  

Earlier this week, the Foundation of National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW), launched a new nursery together with FoK and their partners L’Occitane en Provence and One Tree Planted. This new nursery will mean an additional 80,000 additional trees grownMark says this expansion will allow FoK to meet the demand for revegetation in bushfire affected areas – benefitting both koalas and all native animals in the area. The ultimate goal? To distribute 240,000 trees by the end of 2023! 

CVA has been working with the nursery to distribute these plants across NSW to assist with bushfire recovery projects, funded by NRMA Insurance.  

These bushfire recovery projects provided local private landholders with everything they needed to grow trees on their property and assist with the revegetation of koala habitat – from expert support and guidance, through to the seedlings themselves (provided by the FoK nurseries of course).   

“There were property owners or landholders who may not have been interested in revegetation work, either due to time constraints, or financial constraints, who were able to get involved. We have been able to get into some areas where before we would not have been able to and improve landholder awareness of koala needs.  

With the bushfires last year, there’s been a lot of impact with habitat loss and animal loss. We had 26 koalas in care here as a result of bushfire injury. We dealt with different landholders in a different way during bushfire recovery – they weren’t just looking to provide habitat and food for koalas, they were trying to revegetate their properties.  

We were lucky in this region that we didn’t get the big impacts of Port Macquarie and the South Coast, where they lost up to half their koala population, but there was massive damage to habitat. There are hotspots where we know there’s big koala populations with 4 or 5 koalas in every tree, basically stripping leaves from the trees. We’ve had a couple of grants to work in those areas, but it takes 3 – 10 years before a tree is mature enough for a koala to feed from it. Koalas live up to 12 years, so that’s a whole generation waiting for food.   

We monitor the koala’s health and bring them into care to supplementary feed them if needed, but we can’t relocate them. We have to release them back into the same area and keep monitoring them. The landholders in those areas have been fantastic – they’re proud of the koalas on their land and they want to see them survive so it’s a good partnership between FoK, the landholders, CVA & NRMA Insurance!”  

Do you live in an area with koalas? Learn more about how you can keep them safe and help them thrive 

Want to be a future steward and take action for the world around you? Find out more about our volunteer opportunities here. 

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