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Byron Shire
May 7, 2021

Community on board to save koalas even if government isn’t

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Koala survey provides vital data to help save koalas. Photo supplied.

Molly Trevaskis

A recent community survey shows that more than 90 per cent of people are happy to live alongside the koalas and want to see them protected.

Late last year, the University of Queensland, Southern Cross University and the University of Sydney conducted the NSW North Coast Koala Study, in partnership Friends of the Koala and Lismore, Byron, Ballina and Tweed councils.

The survey collected data about community attitudes towards koalas and was done in conjunction with an ecological survey looking at koala populations in the Northern Rivers.

‘Combining these data sets would give North Coast councils a better chance of saving koalas, which are vulnerable to extinction in NSW,’ said University of Queensland Lead Researcher Professor Clive McAlpine.

Community support for koalas

‘Doing a social survey and an ecological study in tandem enables us to establish where we have strong numbers of koalas and where we have good community support for conservation.

‘The two surveys allow us to pinpoint where our conservation work will be most effective and most supported by the people.’

 ‘This survey allows us to target our efforts in places where there are high koala populations combined with a community that is really willing to work with us. Community engagement and buy-in are critical for the success of any conservation program. That is when we see the best results for our koalas.’

Action on koalas

The survey showed that most respondents were very willing to take action for koala protection. Increasing habitat (87 per cent) and restricting dogs from roaming outside at night (84 per cent) were the strategies that gained the most support. Other activities such as reporting koala sightings (64 per cent), advocating koala protection to the government (59 per cent), restoring native bush on their properties (59 per cent), participating in Council-led initiatives for conservation on their property (55 per cent), caring for or rescuing wildlife (42 per cent), and joining a community conservation group (38 per cent) were some of the other actions respondents said they were willing to take part in.

Support for the other strategies varied: installing infrastructure to reduce speed in koala areas (76 per cent) preventing development in koala habitat areas (74 per cent), applying existing regulation (74 per cent), using public money to buy land for koala reserves (70 per cent), decreasing speed limits in koala zones (69 per cent), funding more research into koala diseases (65 per cent), and using public money to fund koala rescue services (54 per cent).

Plant trees for koalas

As a way to include the community, there is to be a planting of 620 koala and rainforest trees is planned for on May 18 from 9am at 278 Coopers Shoot Road, Coopers Shoot. Linda Sparrow from Bangalow Koalas says the job will require no weeding, no digging, no whipper snipping, ‘just planting trees in pre-dug holes and mulching – easy!’

A sausage sizzle and sandwiches will be on offer, thanks to Bangalow Lions and Julie Frankham.

RSVP: Linda Sparrow on [email protected]

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