Black Summer Bushfires: Impact on a Koala Charity

koala after bush fire

The 2019/2020 Black Summer had a terrible impact on all Australians. The bushfires burnt at least 24 million hectares of land and over three billion animals were killed or displaced. 60,000 of the animals killed were koalas.

Video of some of the burnt forest in East Gippsland, Victoria.

At Koala Clancy Foundation, like many Australians, we felt angry. We had seen this Black Summer coming for years. We had listened to the calls from climate scientists and emergency chiefs to take action urgently, to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and to invest in fire-fighting services.

food after a fire
What was once a koala habitat: the wreckage after a climate-change bushfire, Anakie 2006. 17 years have passed and the trees look better but the koala habitat has not yet recovered and koalas are rarely seen here.

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We also felt a heavy sadness that our precious wildlife paid for our inaction with their lives. But amongst the sadness was an increased determination for action.

wild koala You Yangs Australia 2021
Wild koala Balyang in the You Yangs, Victoria

In the early days of our koala charity, we were removing invasive weeds, educating the community, and researching koalas. Our first tree planting season was in 2016, where we planted a total of 300 trees. This total grew every year, and in 2020 we had planted 9000 trees. This was a massive achievement for us and we were pleased with our progress, but then the Black Summer came.

“The 2020 Black Summer bushfires broke something in me, and in most of us who work in a koala charity”.

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These are the words of Koala Clancy Foundation President, Janine Duffy. She’s been working with koalas for 20+ years. Black Summer was her worst nightmare. She never expected so much of the koala’s range would be impacted in one fire season.

From the wreckage of these bushfires our 300,000-tree goal was born.

We were approached by several international and Australian donors and organisations who wanted to support Australia’s bushfire recovery. The most significant donation came from cryptocurrency giant Binance, through their charity arm: $440,000 AUD for koala tree planting. Binance Charity raises funds for important projects worldwide through the cryptocurrency community. It was our first experience of crypto, and well worth the effort.

20000 koala tree funded Binance after Black Summer bushfires
The 20,000th tree planted in the 2021 tree planting season, funded by Binance Charity.

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As a result in 2021 we were able to plant over 25,000 native koala trees in the You Yangs region. In addition, we funded another 11,000 trees planted in East Gippsland on the edges of the bushfire zone.

Another 2800 koala trees were planted on Raymond Island, East Gippsland by our Koala Clancy Foundation volunteers and members, with funding from IFAW.

We also received funding and support from City of Greater Geelong, PlanetArk, 15 Trees, Tourism Authority of Thailand, One Tree Planted, Deakin University Environmental Science students, TAP wines, Woodline Primary School, Hoxton MPM, Reptile Encounters, Rowville Secondary, Aesop, and Crusoe College.

environmental science students koala research
Deakin Environmental Science students planting in the Little River region in July, 2021.
Deakin university students tree planting
Deakin Environmental Science students planting in the Gippsland region in November, 2021.

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In 2022 we will aim to plant over 40,000 koala trees in the You Yangs region. And we will continue doing so until we have planted 300,000 trees by 2030.

deakin university student planting koala tree
Volunteer planting at our Koala Conservation Day in August, on National Tree Day.

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Australia’s Black Summer brought immense sadness and frustration upon the Australian community. It showed us we need to take immediate action if we want koalas to be part of our future.

Koala Clancy Foundation will continue to give our all in the fight to save koalas from bushfires, climate change, habitat destruction and other causes of mortality. We will keep planting, weeding, educating and advocating.

We need all the help we can get.

You can help by:

  • Joining one of our Koala Conservation Days. They run once or twice a month throughout the year. Groups, schools and businesses can book a private day.
  • Donating. You can make a single or recurring donation here. Donations support tree planting, advocacy and education.
  • Subscribe to Koala News & Science: a monthly newsletter about great projects in koala conservation and the latest koala science.
  • Celebrate Wild Koala Day with us on May 3.
  • Follow us on our socials. By interacting with our content on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll help spread the word about the work that we’re doing.

NOTES & REFERENCES:

Dickman, C.R., 2021. Ecological consequences of Australia’s “Black Summer” bushfires: Managing for recovery. Integrated environmental assessment and management17(6), pp.1162-1167.

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