It is quite feasible for the majority of Clarence Valley landowners to have koalas in their gardens.
The main cause of local koala extinctions is habitat destruction, so it stands to reason that where habitat is returned, koalas also have a chance of returning.
In the Clarence, habitat was initially cleared across the floodplains for agriculture. Now it is for housing, roads, fencing, fire breaks, powerlines, or frequently just for a view. However it can also be by logging state forests or private land, which often removes individual food trees and territorial boundaries. All these activities can make koalas move, mostly into already occupied or unsuitable areas, to cross busy roads they never used to cross, and enter gardens with dogs.
Habitat destruction is also caused by too high fire frequency and uncontrolled burns, which at best kills or dries koalas' food leaves, pushing them into increasingly marginal habitat, but also kills the koalas themselves where tops of trees are scorched.
So anyone thinking to encourage a koala into their yard should assess their area's fire regime, talk to like-minded neighbours, then be ready to ensure any burning is carried out legally, and any fire stays strictly within the boundaries of the person lighting it, to keep koalas safe on the properties they move onto.
Having the right trees of course is also critical. So uncertain landowners should ask at their local environment centre or landcare group if koalas would have historically occupied the land in the first place. They might even get some help in identifying trees, both on and around their land, that will support koalas' fussy feeding habits.
Another focus needs to be on restoring damaged creek and drainage lines and associated floodplains and flats, which supply the vital water in the leaves for koalas, and also form a natural fire-retardant network when in a normal moist condition.
Landowners might also ask about the possibility of a donation of tubestock trees, which are sometimes available free of charge where the person is willing to do the planting.
- Patricia Edwards
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 19, 2016