During 2020 Koala Clancy Foundation has planted 9000 koala trees alongside rivers and streams around the You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges, west of Melbourne.
These nine thousand koala trees join another 7,500 planted from 2016 to 2019. Our total trees planted now stands at 16,500.
So what do 9000 trees mean for koalas?
In our area, near the You Yangs in western Victoria, koalas need a lot of trees. Read how many trees a koala needs here.
The land is naturally grassy woodland, which means few big trees spaced wide apart. Under the trees there is an understory of grasses and small groundcover plants. There are a few small shrubs, but not many.
Koalas love this environment, and have thrived here for tens of thousands of years. But recently things have changed. In the early 1800’s European farming methods reduced the grassy understory. The trees were cut down for firewood and building.
But koalas are tough and adaptable, and so they found other forests to live in.
Then the gold rush came in the 1850’s, and millions of trees were cut down to warm and house the miners, build mine shafts, and to supply steam to release the gold. Deforestation led to massive erosion. It is estimated that one metre of topsoil was removed in this time. It was a bad time for koalas.
But there were places where there was no gold mining, and koalas lived there until the Gold Rush ended. Koalas are tough and adaptable.
Then the killing started. Millions of koalas were killed for their fur. The koala population in Victoria was almost driven to extinction by the 1920’s. Koalas are tough and adaptable, but this was too much.
Luckily a few good people could not bear it, and took some koalas to safe islands. There they thrived, because koalas are tough and adaptable. In time, when the killing had stopped and koala numbers had increased on those islands, koalas were relocated back to places like the You Yangs & Brisbane Ranges.
Over that time, the koala woodlands of the Western Plains had been reduced to a few national parks and reserves, generally on stony, poor country like the You Yangs & Brisbane Ranges. But the climate was mild, and koalas are tough and adaptable. They thrived. The Brisbane Ranges was dubbed Koala Country and through the 1970’s and 80’s Melburnians took their visiting friends there to see koalas in the wild, guaranteed (1). Many locals remember finding koalas easily in the You Yangs too.
Now we have introduced climate change. The poor stony country of the You Yangs is drying out. Even to the untrained eye, the tree canopy looks thin, the forest looks bare. Koalas are dehydrated and thirsty. They are hungry. Their home ranges are getting larger every year, as the habitat fails to provide for their needs. Koalas are still there, but only because there’s nowhere else to go.
Soon koalas will have thousands of new trees to go to. Plus the 7,500 koala trees we have planted since 2016, making our total 16,500 trees.
These are not just any trees. These are trees planted beside waterways, in the richest, most fertile, wettest soil on the Western Plains. They are super trees.
These koala super trees are the habitat that koalas lost one hundred years ago. Now they are getting it back, with the help of farmers and local volunteers.
It’s not enough, but we are determined. We will continue planting as fast as we can, for as long as we need to.
Koalas are tough, and adaptable. They’ve been through hell before, and made it. Maybe, with our help, they will make it through this as well.
NOTES & REFERENCES:
(1) Even government websites such as these still claim that the “Brisbane Ranges is home to the highest density of koalas in Victoria”:
Good information and pics of grassy woodlands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain here: https://www.whittlesea.vic.gov.au/media/4919/sustainable-environment-grassy-eucalypt-woodland-reserve-2019.pdf