Great Ocean Road Koala Habitat Rescue

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We have embarked on creating the woodlands of the future by planting over 100,000 tree seedlings over the last few years, across 100 Ha of affected woodland areas at Cape Otway.

The problem

Koalas face a number of conservation challenges which vary dramatically across their range. In this region, koalas are threatened by habitat declines, particularly in manna gum woodlands and there are very real fears for the welfare of koalas as their food trees die. The Great Ocean Road’s coastal woodlands are in crisis and urgent action is needed to protect them.

Koala over-browsing has caused drastic decline of woodland health and extent. In some areas the dieback is so severe that it has caused entire canopy death and koalas too are suffering. Habitats are changing beyond recognition, as woodland is replaced by invasive species. The ecosystem is further threatened by the absence of low intensity fires, which is a vital component of many Australian woodlands. The combined result is that more than 70% of the Manna Gum community has been lost over the past 20 years.

The decline of the Manna Gums has been accelerating and without intervention we will lose this unique and rare habitat type, along with the koalas and the many other plants and animals that rely on it.

The solution

With no time to waste, we have embarked on creating the woodlands of the future by planting over 100,000 tree seedlings over the last few years, across 100Ha of affected woodland areas at Cape Otway.

It is vital to protect young or ailing trees from over-browsing and to shield mature seed trees for future revegetation efforts. We are trialling large-scale methods to minimise koala browsing on selected trees. Through wider application of these techniques, woodland areas can be effectively managed, allowing koalas access to healthy trees, while ensuring protection where necessary. We have shown that these techniques are successful – they enable canopy recovery. Now we need to apply them across wider areas.

Careful research of this woodland ecosystem will be vital as low intensity prescribed burns are reintroduced into the landscape, allowing the CEC to identify an optimal fire regime. Critical canopy species, fire dependant germinators and floral and faunal diversity will be enhanced, while invasive species will be reduced. We have pioneered mosaic burning with the CFA over the last two years, have measured the diversity of herbs and native grasses and noted natural germination of Manna Gums. This is a positive start for an ambitious research program which will be critical for managing our remnant vegetation and the newly planted woodland to achieve a critical mass of protected habitat.

We can’t do this without your help though. We desperately require funding in order to develop this program and save koalas.

How you can get involved

You can assist our Conservation & Research Team in annual surveys to monitor the koala population and the habitat condition, join in with habitat restoration efforts like the Big Otway Tree Plant and Learn more about volunteering.

When possible, land is purchased and kept in trust to secure long term habitat security for koalas. We welcome you to join us in creating this legacy – please contact us for more details on larger projects.