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01/07/2021
Tree-planting bid to save koalas
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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The Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation started in May 2019 when the local community realised the importance of preserving the local koala population from the threat of development. What began as a Facebook group that recorded sightings of koalas on the Peninsula has grown to boast an impressive membership, and with the support of the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network it’s on track to becoming an established community conservation group.

MPKC’s main objective is to create a koala wildlife corridor connecting the existing sections of koala habitat and food trees on the Peninsula. Planting in the existing koala corridors encourages koalas to move out of nearby urban areas and away from the many threats they face. To keep striving towards its target, MPKC focuses on raising money to buy and plant trees and vegetation needed by holding fundraisers, increasing membership, and applying for grants. All money will go directly to making MPKC’s projects and goals a reality.

The response has been amazing and overwhelming,” said president Dirk Jansen. “There is so much interest in the community to come and plant trees with us and/or plant trees on their own properties. It really gives us hope for the future. We generally have between 40-80 registrations for each planting day, which is fantastic. We have more than 200 group memberships now and steadily growing. The excitement of people at tree-planting events is amazing. Saving koalas will take a community effort and collaboration between groups, authorities, landholders and anyone who wants to get involved. More than 70 per cent of koala habitat is on private property, and the Peninsula has less than 30 per cent of tree canopy left. We can only turn this around by working together and sharing the responsibility.”

From June to October this year, MPKC is planting more than 15,000 native trees and shrubs and is focusing on the Somers and Dromana area to improve tree canopy cover. There’s no doubt this will require an impressive community effort, with loads of volunteers needed for this massive task and an immense number of trees to match. To join an event or become a member, visit www.mpkoalas.org.au or visit MPKC on Facebook. The next tree planting is on July 10, and these will run every fortnight until the end of October.

So what’s the most memorable moment so far for Dirk? “The excitement of people when they see/report a koala to us is great. Also, the engagement and support from our authorities – MP Shire, Parks Vic and our many other private sponsors – has been amazing. But the funniest moment so far would be when a koala pooped on my head when we were trying to collect scat for DNA analysis for a Federation Uni study. The DNA of our koalas can give us a lot of insights into the health and origin of our population, but the reality of obtaining the data is less glamorous.”

KATE SEARS

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