19 October 2023

Koonawarra kids create Wollongong's first 'Koala Food Forest' to help save our iconic marsupial population

| Keeli Royle
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 A child and worker from Wollongong Council planting a tree together.

Koonawarra Primary School students are helping preserve one of our most iconic species. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

Kids from Koonawarra Primary have put down the roots for the future of our beloved koala population, with the school partnering with Wollongong City Council and Symbio Wildlife Park to plant hundreds of specially selected local eucalyptus trees.

The students helped establish the first ‘Koala Food Forest’ at Eleebana Reserve in Koonawarra as a source of food for the beloved marsupials at Symbio and those in emergency during natural disasters like the 2020-21 bushfires.

“It’s not every day we get to launch a project that helps take care of one of Australia’s national symbols,” Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.

READ ALSO Symbio welcomes special new addition after beloved koala’s baby is revealed

“It’s fantastic that we’re able to use our open spaces and the staff’s knowledge and expertise to grow much-needed eucalyptus trees that will feed the local koalas at Symbio and provide shade and oxygen for the local community.

“It’s this kind of collaboration and innovation that we need to embrace if we’re going to protect Australia’s vulnerable species into the future.”

The trees, which were selected by Symbio, will take around 18 to 24 months before their leaves are able to be harvested but, once established, the wildlife park will be able to sustainably harvest 25 to 100 small branches every few weeks, depending on their growth rate.

Kids from Koonawarra Primary School planting trees for Koala food.

Seven hundred new specially selected eucalyptus trees will help feed koalas at Symbio.

It’s an important contribution for the struggling population, with more than 1000 trees needed to feed a single koala each year.

“Sustainable koala plantations are critical to the long-term preservation of our most iconic species, the koala. We thank Wollongong City Council, and Wild Conservation for their support and partnership in helping create the first public space koala feed forest in our region,” Symbio Managing Director Matt Radnidge said.

And they’re not just for the koalas, with the whole community able to enjoy the new leafy additions which will provide more shade, help cool the area, restore local biodiversity and absorb harmful emissions of up to 21 kilograms of CO2 per year for a mature tree.

READ ALSO Kids have a wild time learning to be zookeepers at Symbio Wildlife Park

“Wollongong City Council is committed to greening our suburbs as we know that it will help build more climate resilient communities,” Cr Bradbery said.

“Trees are one of the best tools at our disposal to cool our suburbs; they also provide habitats for native flora and fauna, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

To find out more about the Koala Food Forest and the Urban Greening Strategy, visit the Wollongong City Council website.

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