What is a koala corridor?
In Australia, koala populations are benefiting from two farming families who have partnered with Landcare Australia and the clothing brand Country Road since 2020 in The Biodiversity Project to restore farmlands and increase biodiversity in cotton-growing regions.
Brother and sister farmers, John and Juanita Hamparsum, are continuing their father’s farm, Drayton, bought in the 1960s, and are revegetating 16 hectares along the Mooki River near Gunnedah as part of the Biodiversity Project.
The Hamparsum’s are also creating wildlife corridors, including a koala corridor on land and a fish passage in the river. The wildlife corridors enable a variety of native animals to travel across their habitat easily and safely.
John Hamparsum said, ‘In the recent drought, we had three years of unparalleled dry. As a result of that, koala numbers have absolutely dwindled. So, what we are trying to do with this program is to rejuvenate the area and our biodiversity, predominantly on the flora side [plants] so that we can attract the fauna [animals] back to the area. One of the things about a natural environment and vegetation is you have clusters of habitat and that’s where the birds, insects, and natural fauna thrive. When those areas become disconnected and the animals are running out of food, they need to traverse the landscape to the next habitat. If there is no connection or cover for them to be able to get from A to B they’re actually very vulnerable, not only to predators … also they just don’t have any cover to hide. By providing a connecting corridor of vegetation, you’re not only enabling the habitat to extend itself, you’re also providing a freeway, so to speak, for the fauna to be able to move in a safe way.’
Therefore, a koala corridor is a safe passageway for koalas to move across the land from one location to another. The corridor is human-made, using the natural pathways and movement lanes, and reinforcing them with protection. This could include putting holes in fences for koalas to walk through, planting vegetation along the route to hide koalas from predators, and providing natural food sources along the corridor. The aim is to enable koalas to move freely where they want to go. Wildlife corridors are part of the “free to roam” philosophy.
Andrew and Cynthia Pursehouse, and their eldest son James, have operated a farm called Breeza Station since 1986, south of the Hamparsum farm. In the Biodiversity Project, they are revegetating 15 hectares of habitat for koalas by planting 3,000 trees along the Mooki River.
Cynthia Pursehouse said, ‘I’ve got a great love for koalas, which were on the farm here when we first moved in.’ The family planted many trees over thirty years, and ‘the opportunity to put more trees in with Landcare Australia and Country Road is really great for the koalas … About four years ago, when there was a drought, the numbers diminished and I know a lot of the older koalas died … We went for probably twelve months without seeing a koala, but in the past month, we’ve seen two. We’re quite excited to think that hopefully they’re coming back.’
James added, ‘We’ve notice that the koalas are moving further south. Mum and Dad originally planted trees around our house, but there isn’t enough vegetation between the house and the river, or along the river banks, for them to move safely. If we can connect the existing tree lines with the new areas we are planting in the Biodiversity Project, hopefully we can encourage and help that process of the koalas moving further south.’
Andrew said that the Biodiversity Project ‘will help the koala corridor that was put in during the 90s between Breeza and Caroona.’ The project’s appeal to Andrew is that ‘it’s not just about planting the trees, it’s actually about looking after them in the future as well.’
Photographer: Martina Nicolls and photographs from Country Road, www.countryroad.com.au 1 May 2023
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