Over decades, koala numbers have dramatically plunged. Since roaming Australia for the past 25 million years, numbers of these furry marsupials have dropped by as much as 95 percent.
Today, it’s estimated that there are less than 80,000 koalas remaining in Australia, with most of their natural habitat already lost due to the aftermath of deforestation.
Since settlement, the increased disturbance by humans and the clearing of land and eucalyptus forests have affected Australian wildlife, leaving them to suffer in detrimental ways.
From increased stress to compete for food resources, to injury and even death – the population of these tree-dwelling animals are plummeting, with little sign of relief.
But Meghan Halverson, president of the Queensland Koala Crusaders hopes to turn it all around.
For more than a decade, the wildlife warrior has been working tirelessly to help repopulate koala numbers, one tree at a time.
“Habitat loss and fragmentation are the number one threat to koalas in the wild,” she said. “The Queensland Koala Crusaders are doing everything we can to help Australian koalas. We aim to be a voice for koalas.”
Formed in 2012, the not-for-profit are working to help stem the rapid decline of wild koala populations across the state, and to help find sustainable solutions to ensure a promising future for koalas and their homes.
Apart from working with government officials, advisory committees and expert panels to come up with plans for better ways of managing the species, the Queensland Koala Crusaders constantly strive for a collaborative and humane approach to koala conservation efforts.
“We raise funds in hopes that one day we can build a koala sanctuary. That way, in times like the recent bushfires we’d have a place for them to rest and recover post hospitalisation,” Meghan explained.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve also established a koala rescue unit and planted thousands of trees to help repopulate koala habitats.”
To assist with the mission to protect koala habitats, The Body Shop UK partnered with the Queensland Koala Crusaders as part of their World Bio-Bridges Mission project and granted them with $90,000 to plant trees.
Meghan said, soon after the Body Shop Australia also got on board and practically doubled the amount of funding.
“Through a collaborate effort we were able to partner with Noosa and District Landcare, Noosa Parks Association and local and state government in a new acquisition of land in Noosa to plant 24,000 trees which will spread somewhere between 16 to 400 hectares,” she said.
“The ultimate goal is to get that area’s habitat – which was once a pine plantation – rehabilitated and restored into native bushland. We know there are existing koalas in the surrounding areas so we’re hoping to connect four areas of habitat to provide a better place for koalas to thrive and grow their numbers in the future.”
Since its launch, the 10-year mission has seen around 7,000 out of the 24,000 trees planted. But koalas aren’t the only species the seed sowing will help.
“We’re not only helping koalas. We’re helping other endangered species including, sugar gliders, greater gliders, black cockatoos and the flying-fox – a synergistic species to koalas,” Meghan said.
“The flying-fox pollinates koala feeding trees when they fly from tree to tree. If we didn’t have flying-foxes, then we wouldn’t have koalas either because we wouldn’t have eucalyptus trees.”
Systems in the Australian wildlife chain are sensitive, and even the smallest changes can have an incredible ripple effect on the ecosystem.
So, how can the everyday person help?
“We can plant trees using a strategic approach by connecting habitats,” Meghan enthused.
“We can donate to groups like ours so that we can continue to do the work we do and hopefully buy up some property to provide a koala sanctuary.”
She also encouraged pet parents to be responsible owners by making sure cats or dogs are confined at night.
“Regardless of whether you’re on a big property or small one, your animals should be contained. The strong nature of a dog’s bite can puncture a lung and cause internal bleeding, infections or even kill a koala,” she said.
People can also volunteer, learn about their local species and teach kids to do the same. And for drivers travelling through known areas of koala habitats and crossings, be diligent, slow down and watch out for wildlife crossing the roads.
“One of the most important things we can do is work collaboratively. The way to save species, and the world, is by working together. We don’t need to reinvent wheels; we just need to work together to help make a difference.”
For more information on how you can help save koala homes, visit koalacrusaders.org.au.