‘Lismore’s urban koalas are very special,’ says Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass.
‘Few Australians have the opportunity to even see a koala in the wild, much less live with them, but for many Lismorites koalas are part of their daily lives.’
But the marsupials face numerous threats including car strike, marauding by pet dogs and a food shortage brought about by the degrading of their urban habitat through eucalypt dieback and weed invasion.
A new $180,000 project announced last week will strengthen koala habitat refuges and corridors in and around East Lismore, aiming to encourage resident involvement in conserving Lismore’s koalas through education about weed identification and management, native plant alternatives and garden waste dumping.
The project will restore 24 hectares of degraded habitat, approximately two hectares of which will be planted with koala food trees. Work is set to commence in July.
‘Keeping our urban koalas healthy and safe from traffic and dogs is the challenge’, Lorraine says.
‘We know that over the next 25 years well over 3,000 residential lots are expected to be released in urban Lismore, nearly a third of them in East Lismore, so now is the time for us to be working more closely with the major land managers and residents on restoring degraded eucalypt areas known to support koalas and strengthening their habitat where we can on the urban fringe so that recruitment opportunities from the critical koala precinct of Monaltrie, Tregreagle and Wyrallah are maintained,’ she added.
Friends of the Koala’s project co-ordinator, Julie Reid says urban habitat ‘presents many challenges for wildlife, including koalas.’
‘Weeds, specifically garden escapees, create a real threat to movement and to maintaining conservation value; in part that’s where community education comes in. People are usually keen to learn about koalas and what they can do to assist in their survival.’
The NSW Environmental Trust will provide a grant of $99,200 over three years towards the project. Friends of the Koala and its major partners, Lismore City Council, Southern Cross University and the National Parks & Wildlife Service will provide an in-kind and cash contribution of around $80,000 over the same period.