Volunteers invited to compete in local tree planting project to save koalas

The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) is inviting volunteers to team up and challenge each other to plant and raise the best koala food trees in Bongil Bongil National Park to help save the iconic species.

Volunteers invited to compete in local tree planting project to save koalas

The Tree Parents project was launched in 2014 and over 100 enthusiastic and competitive local volunteers planted 600 trees in a degraded eucalypt plantation in the national park near East Boambee.

NPWS Acting Area Manager Andrew Lugg said planning and site preparation is well underway for phase two of the project with another 600 trees ready for more 'Tree Parents' to plant and nurture them in May.

"The bushland around Coffs Harbour supports one of the most important wild koala populations in the state, but some forest areas have been changed and lack the primary koala food tree species of Tallowwood, Grey Gum, Forest Oak and Swamp Mahogany," Mr Lugg said.

"This project helps create vital koala habitat quite rapidly and provides an opportunity for people to assist local wildlife for centuries into the future, as most eucalypts live in excess of 300 years.

"The teams from 2014 are already seeing koalas and their joeys occupy trees adjacent to their plots, curiously eyeing off the young trees they are nurturing," Mr Lugg said.

Teams of six to 12 individuals are invited to sign-up, plant and carry out Tree Parent responsibilities for 60 young trees within a prepared national park plot for the first two to three years of their life.

"The first phase only resulted in the loss of approximately 30 of the 600 trees and any that perished have been replaced and are looking great, resulting in 100 per cent survival," Mr Lugg said.

"Before the Tree Parents concept was developed, a good community-based tree planting project was generally one that resulted in at least 70 per cent of the planted trees still alive after 12 months", Mr Lugg said.

One of the original Tree Parent team captains, Rose Coote said it was a fantastic and rewarding opportunity to take part in.

"We made good friends and enjoyed being part of generating an environment for the koalas of this region and creating a forest that will last hundreds of years," Mrs Coote said.

Local ranger and project manager Martin Smith said a training and orientation day for all prospective volunteers will be scheduled for late March with the tree planting competition kicking off in May.

"As well as training, NPWS will provide all equipment and on-site support so the local community can do something both fun and practical to protect and conserve our local koalas," Mr Smith said.

The koala is one of six iconic species with important social, cultural and economic significance listed under the NSW Government's Saving our Species program.

To find out more or to sign up to be a Tree Parent, contact Martin Smith at the local NPWS Coffs Jetty office on (02) 6652 0907.

Photos for media: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nswnationalparks/albums/72157680023370476/with/32641273292/