Koala Clancy Foundation are on a mission: to plant 300,000 koala trees by 2030 and save the koalas of the You Yangs, Victoria.
In 2021 we have 22,000 trees ready to plant around the You Yangs. That’s exciting, but we have bigger plans. We need to be planting 30,000 trees in this region, every year, to meet our target.
We are getting better and faster at tree planting, and we’re getting more support from landowners than ever. In 2016, our first year of tree planting, we planted 300 trees. Our totals rose slowly through 2017, 2018 & 2019, then even with COVID lockdowns in 2020 we planted 9000 trees. This year we will plant 22,000 koala trees. We will plant more and more each year, and we are aiming for 30-35,000 in 2022.
Our team are determined. The koalas of the You Yangs need us.
Why do koalas need new trees planted?
Koalas are running out of time. In the You Yangs, trees are dying. The increasing dryness of climate change is killing koalas’ preferred food trees on the dry hills of the You Yangs.
See some of the dying trees, compared to the same trees a decade earlier, in this report: https://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/you-yangs-koala-research-report-2017/
And when trees die, or lose their leaves completely, koalas die. (1)
But nearby, on the plains around the You Yangs, the soil is fertile and moist. It is farming land, because it is the best land. The rivers on the plains were once lined with a wide band of koala forest 100metres to 1km wide. But now, most of those river forests are gone, or massively reduced.
We are putting the trees back there, along the rivers of the Western Plains, creating new habitat for koalas, and helping to protect our waterways at the same time.
What’s the urgency?
We estimate there are about 100-120 koalas still living in the You Yangs. But in 2007 that was 200-250. Our research has documented a 46% decline over 10 years in the koala population in the You Yangs already. If we wait another 10 years another half of them will die.
Added to that, climate change is making it harder for baby trees to survive (2). Trees planted even now, away from water, are struggling to survive. Suitable sites for planting are few. We plant in wet areas, along rivers, creeks, drainage lines and around dams, and get high tree survival rates. But in a decade even those riverside sites might not be suitable for baby trees.
Why 300,000 koala trees?
Every one of the koalas in the You Yangs is important to us. We have known some of them, like Pat & Clancy, Ngardang and Kiki, their whole lives. We know their home ranges, and we know how many trees they need.
Our calculations show that each koala in the You Yangs needs 7,640 eucalyptus trees to themselves*. They don’t use that many, but their home range includes that many – and there must be a reason for that.
Koalas need fewer trees when they are alongside rivers, in fertile soil. So in better conditions 3000 trees per koala should be adequate.
So to support the whole koala population of the You Yangs we need 100 koalas x 3000 trees each = 300,000 trees.
We think we can do it, but we will need many many pairs of hands, and a lot of investment. It costs us $10 to plant a tree properly. At 3000 trees per koala, that’s $30,000 per koala.
We think that’s a wise investment. What price would you put on a Tasmanian Tiger? Or a Giant Panda? Koalas are worth AUD $3billion to Australia’s economy every year. With just a little support, this golden goose will keep providing jobs, joy and ecosystem services to Australians for decades to come.
Are you in?
Koala tree planting days run every weekend from June to August. https://www.koalaclancyfoundation.org.au/events/
*sharing/overlapping of home ranges has already been taken into account in this figure. Most of the koalas in the You Yangs only share their home range with one or two others.
(1) GORDON, G., BROWN, A.S. and PULSFORD, T. (1988), A koala (Phascolarctos cinereus Goldfuss) population crash during drought and heatwave conditions in south-western Queensland. Australian Journal of Ecology, 13: 451-461. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.1988.tb00993.x
(2) Close, D & Davidson, N Review of rural tree decline in a changing Australian climate (2004) Tasforests Vol 15 https://www.sttas.com.au/sites/default/files/media/documents/science/tasforests/Tasforests%20Vol%2015_15_july2004_article_1.pdf
Seabrook Leonie, McAlpine Clive, Baxter Greg, Rhodes Jonathan, Bradley Adrian, Lunney Daniel (2011) Drought-driven change in wildlife distribution and numbers: a case study of koalas in south west Queensland. Wildlife Research 38, 509-524.