We probably don’t need to remind you how adorable koalas are. With their teddy-bear like faces, it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with these cuties. They are native to Australia but, unfortunately, these famous down-under animals urgently need our help for survival.

The forest habitat that koalas rely on is being destroyed at an alarming pace. For example, in Queensland, Australia, almost 700,000 hectares of wooded land was cleared for development in 2014 alone. With nowhere else to go, many of the estimated 1,000 wild koalas left on the Gold Coast are finding themselves dangerously close to roads and other human hazards, a mistake that can cost them their lives. Wildcare Australia reports rescuing about 150 of these animals each year. With koala populations rapidly declining, they too may soon find themselves on the world’s ever growing endangered species list.

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Thankfully, many people are stepping up to the plate to help koalas. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has set up a competition and is inviting volunteers to team up and challenge each other to plant and raise the best koala food trees in the Bongil Bongil National Park in New South Wales, Australia.

The Tree Parents project was launched in 2014, and over 100 enthusiastic and competitive local volunteers have since planted 600 trees in the national park for koala food. Amazing!

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Now phase two of the Tree Parents project is underway. NPWS Acting Area Manager Andrew Lugg said planning and site preparation is underway with another 600 trees ready to be planted and nurtured come May.

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“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. 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,” said Mr. Lugg.

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Teams of six to 12 individuals are invited to sign up for the Tree Parents project and then 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. “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,” said Rose Coote’s, one of the original Tree Parent team captains.

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Training and orientation day for interested volunteers will be scheduled for late March with the tree planting competition kicking off in May. According to local ranger and project manager Martin Smith,“ 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.” Sign us up!

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If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Tree Parent, contact Martin Smith at the local NPWS Coffs Jetty office at (02) 6652 0907.

Lead image source: pexels/Pixabay

In-text image source: Office of Environment and Heritage/Flickr

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