Linda Sparrow is President of Bangalow Koalas, a Northern Rivers-based community group devoted to protecting the village’s unique koala population, thought to carry a gene pool that may help facilitate the species’ future survival.
”I’m so proud of what our community group has achieved in just three short years.
In 2016, we started out as a handful of concerned neighbours, determined to prevent a 400-metre stretch of 30-year-old koala food trees from deteriorating or being forcibly removed. Since then, we’ve grown into an active, change-creating group with more than 100 members.
Our long-term goal is to create a koala wildlife corridor, to encourage koalas out of urban areas and away from threats. Working towards that, we’ve planted 13,500 trees in the last 18 months. By the end of 2019 that number will have risen to 27,980 trees in total either planted or given away to interested landholders.
With so many trees now in the ground, the corridor has already expanded and connected existing sections of koala habitat from Byron Bay and surrounds, across the hinterland out towards Repentance Creek and further westward.
We’ve also partnered with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) with the goal to create a koala wildlife corridor across the Northern Rivers. We are well on our way to achieving this, with more and more landholders contacting me to be involved each month. So far, our work has expanded across three shires in the Northern Rivers.
I think a combination of factors has helped us achieve what we have to date. Successful grant applications, all won through painstaking application processes. A collection of empathetic landholders with a desire to become part of the corridor. Vital support from local councils. And a dedicated group of passionate members and volunteers. Many members bring their environmental ‘day job’ expertise to the table, and many more are willing to (literally!) get their hands dirty on planting days.
We’re also committed to doing regular letterbox drops and fundraising drives. I work closely with local media, as well as maintaining an engaged social media following to sustain our momentum and community profile.
While the plantings are without doubt the cornerstone of what we do, we’ve also funded corflute road signage, hung at known koala areas around the Byron Shire. The signs increase koala awareness among drivers. I also regularly co-host Koala Health and Habitat Workshops with Friends of the Koala, including ‘kiddy’ versions at preschools and primary schools. I am often asked by the council to help educate members of the public about koalas, and how we can work together as a community to protect them.
In co-founding Bangalow Koalas, I’ve not only been able to realise a childhood dream of working with and for the animals, I’ve discovered how powerful and effective a small community group can be in creating genuine change for good. I can’t wait to see how much more we can achieve in another three years.
”I’ve discovered how powerful and effective a small community group can be in creating genuine change for good