While koalas continue to decline rapidly in Queensland, in both numbers and health, our local Landcare group is making gains to protect the local population.
Pittsworth District Landcare Association initiated its Koalas in Our Backyards project in 2012, aiming to raise awareness and restore habitat.
Landholders and the wider community have embraced the chance to contribute, to the extent the group’s expectation of 2,000 trees in two years has been well and truly exceeded.
A total of 8,560 trees have been planted on 77 landholder properties over 113 project sites, with more landholders coming forward each year for four years to participate. Locally occurring feed and habitat tree species were provided to increase core koala habitat areas, establish critical corridors and link existing habitat areas.
Koalas are not just an iconic species in the district. They are also an indicator species of landscape health. Landholders have shown a profound connection with koalas and responded to the challenge of restoring lost habitat and connections.
Planting trees specifically for koala habitat was the motivation for many participants and several groups of neighbours connected plantings across the landscape. Many landholders were new to their property (five years or less) and strongly valued biodiversity and landscape function as important factors in their farm management.
A key component of Koalas in Our Backyards has been site visits by ecologist Dawn Heath and project manager Liz Todd, meeting with landholders individually to discuss appropriate species, landscape linkages, koala sightings, site management and integration with cropping and grazing operations.
The visits also provided landholders with valuable information on other issues such as birds, erosion, weeds, feral animals, horses, species identification, seed collection, riparian management and general land management.
The project has also promoted better understanding of koala ecology in the wider community and established a central database to report sightings. Importantly, four annual Community Koala Surveys have been conducted, documenting a total of 297 koala sightings and 57 joey sightings. Sadly, 35 koalas were reported as dead or injured. Residents have welcomed the opportunity to share their koala sightings and experiences and genuinely value the presence of koalas in the district.
Pittsworth District Landcare Association secured funding to deliver the project over four years from Everyone’s Environment Grant, Community Environment Grant, Condamine Alliance and Toowoomba Regional Council.
Koalas in Our Backyards has made gains by raising local awareness of the koalas and providing information on their co-existence in urban and agricultural situations. As a result, more people have taken proactive on-ground steps and are wanting and welcoming koalas in their backyards, big and small.
Statewide, the adoption of the koala in 1971 as Queensland’s faunal emblem has afforded the iconic marsupial little protection. Forty-five years later in the Pittsworth district, koalas are hanging on by their toenails, battling tree clearing, drought, predation, road fatalities and disturbance.
But with the support of local landholders and volunteers, Pittsworth koalas are now in the safer hands of Landcare.
Photo: Koala sighted in the Pittsworth district 2015 (photo by Linsdsay Proudlock)