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The Koala Blog

Koala cuteness, conservation and news from the front line.

Volunteers in focus: the Leaf Harvest Team

Brad takes the best photos of Ivy eating leaf

Our Leaf Harvest Team provides the daily food for our koalas in our Koala Hospital and Care Centre so our patients can rehabilitate and thrive. Here is a run down of what it involves to supply all of this bush tucker.

How koalas came to eat only eucalypts

A quick search online and you will see that there are different estimates for how long koalas have been around for – some say koala-like animals were on earth some 40 million years ago!

The scientific name for the koala species alive today is Phascolarctos cinereus. These koalas evolved from more prehistoric koala-like animals with more generalised diets. As Australia began drifting north towards the equator with a warmer, drier climate and soil with fewer nutrients, it is believed that koalas adapted to eat eucalypts to survive.

Koalas eat between 500 - 800 grams of eucalyptus leaves per day
Johnny knows where the best leaf is at

Koalas developed into fastidious folivores (leaf eaters) and even though there are hundreds of different eucalypts, koalas will only eat a small number as well as a small number of non eucalypts – like melaleuca. Check out this koala eating melaleuca.

Only three other animal make use of eucalypts as a food source – the brushtail possum, the common ringtail possum, and the greater glider.

How do we feed all of our koalas?

At Friends of the Koala, we admit over 350 koalas per year into our Koala Hospital and Care Centre, those koalas eat approximately between 300 and 500 grams of leaf per day each – that’s a whole lotta leaf!!

So where does it all come from?

Koalas are fussy eaters, eating just a small number of eucalypt species
William is lowering a Forest Red Gum tree – koalas LOVE this Eucalyptus tereticornis variety.

Out of the over 240 active volunteers who do an amazing job at providing for and caring for the koalas, our Leaf Harvesters are the people who supply leaf for the koalas in our care. The leaf comes from many different locations in the Northern Rivers including seven Friends of the Koala Food Tree plantations and some private plantations, road reserves and private landholder properties as we often don’t have enough Forest Red Gum or Tallow in the plantations – especially post drought and flood.

Our Leaf Harvesters are always on the lookout for new locations – if you’re a landholder around Lismore and you would like to be involved please let us know – contact us.

The Leaf Harvest Team

Fiona Dawson is our Leaf Harvest Coordinator and responsible for ensuring there is daily harvesting of fresh food for the koalas in our care, 365 days per year. Fiona organises the roster for a team of approximately twenty leafers and conducts Eucalypt Identification Training.

The weather isn’t always favourable, this summer has been very hot and wet, but the team are always ready to get the work done. They are an amazing bunch and do a terrific job of making sure our koalas always have quality leaf on tap!

“Leafers are a resourceful bunch who look for the best food they can, not only from our plantations but also in private plantations, roadside, council reserves etc. We are supported by our fantastic Plantation Team who maintain the Friends of the Koala plantations but also by many landholders who allow us access to their trees. We could not manage without these landholders, so thank you to them.”

Fiona Dawson, Leaf Co-ordinator

Did you know we have seven koala food tree plantations to feed the koalas in our care, and five community native plant nursery sites from where we grow and distribute over 100,000 trees to landholders and partners each year?

We work holistically and on a large scale. What do they say? It takes a village to raise a child! Well, it takes a village to care for koalas. This is why we need so many volunteers. Should you be interested in joining our Leaf Harvest Team or helping us to plant eucalyptus trees and maintain our gumtree plantations we would love to hear from you – volunteer with us.

A Friends of the Koala plantation update from Heather

If you enjoyed hearing about this work, you might like to check out:

If you would like to volunteer with us, please visit our Volunteer page.

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