Assist us to bring Koalas back to the Prom by planting out Swamp Gums which once grew in numbers on the Yanakie Isthmus. Attempts have been made over the past 15 years to restore the woodland with mixed success. In 2017, we started a new project to increase the number of trees significantly.
This long-term project is re-establishing Koala habitat in its original location near the old airstrip, in the Yanakie Isthmus section of Wilsons Prom. The location is behind the wildlife viewing area, a popular stopping point for visitors as they drive to Tidal River. Historical documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries show that the area near the airfield was once well-timbered with Swamp Gum, and that Koalas were frequently seen here. The land was surveyed in the 1800s and crown allotments leased to settlers on the condition that they “improve” the land. This meant lease-holders ring-barked hundreds of acres of trees and sowed the land to pasture grass for farming. For a while, the area remained as grassland because of the pressures of cattle grazing and browsing by native and feral animals. Removal of cattle agistment in 1992 allowed the regeneration of shrubs, particularly Coast Wattle (Acacia Longifolia). Restoring the woodland habitat should discourage the shrubby understorey and encourage Koalas to return in greater numbers.
FOTP has been planting out Swamp Gums over the last fifteen years with mixed success. These trees take time to mature to the point where they are large enough to withstand browsing by kangaroos, wallabies, deer, wombats and rabbits. Various types of tree-guards have been used in the past, but the only ones to successfully keep browsing animals at bay are made from heavy-duty steel mesh and wire netting.
FOTP successfully applied for a $9,500 grant from the Victorian government to build high quality rigid wire mesh guards. Construction of the guards was completed in 2019. Swamp gums were propagated at FOTP’s plant nursery as the guards were being built. In July 2019, volunteers finished planting the seedlings and installed the 240th tree-guard at the former airfield site.
This project will continue over the coming years with monitoring and trimming any encroaching vegetation. Trees that fail to thrive will need replacing, bracken needs to be weeded and guards need to be removed from mature trees. In late 2019, FOTP was again successful in receiving a grant to extend the project. This $7,750 Landcare grant will allow us to build another 200 tree-guards. Eventually, we want to see the woodland restored and Koalas return.
Keep your eye out for opportunities to volunteer on this project.