In 1958 residents of the Tucki district formed a committee dedicated to preserving the local koala population and its habitat. This action was prompted by concern about the decline of suitable food trees for koalas in the district.
Four hectares of land adjacent to the Tucki Public School were planted with a variety of trees to provide food and shelter for the district’s diminishing koala population. In 1967 the land came under the control of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and was named the Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve.
Koalas in Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve are being studied as part of a program to conserve the species in NSW. Studies are regularly carried out to gain information on the distribution, size and structure of koala populations. The tagging of koalas allows their growth rate and life histories to be monitored.
Research is also being carried out at Tucki Tucki on the koala’s territorial range, food preferences and the carrying capacity of their reduced habitat.
Some of the trees originally planted in the reserve by the residents were suffering from overgrazing, so more planting was undertaken. Tree corridors were also planted by community groups to link the reserve with other nearby koala habitats. Local landholders are encouraged to retain wooded areas on their properties and to plant trees favoured by koalas.
Ancestors of the koala are thought to have existed about 12 million years ago. The scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus means ‘pouched bear’ and ‘ash-grey’, however koalas do not belong to the family of bears. Among living animals, koalas have a distant link only with wombats, both having backward opening pouches.
Koalas choose their leaves by smell and are most selective. At Tucki Tucki the koalas prefer forest red gum, Eucalyptus tereticomis, tallowwood, E. microcorys, and flooded gum, E. grandis. Koalas are also known to eat the leaves of plants other than eucalypts.
An adult koala will eat about one kilogram of eucalypt leaves per day. They also eat the flowers, buds, twigs and bark from eucalypts and supplement their diet with soil for necessary minerals.
Koalas generally produce only one offspring during the annual breeding season from early spring to mid-summer. After gestation, about 315 days, a blind hairless cub, some 22mm long and weighing no more than half a gram, is born. Unaided it crawls to the pouch, attaching itself to one of two teats, where it remains and continues to develop. After about six months the young koala periodically vacates the pouch. By seven months it is too large for the pouch and rides on the mother’s back. This close association continues for about five more months until the young koala becomes independent.
Today koalas are scheduled by the National Parks and Wildlife Act as vulnerable and rare.
Since European settlement koalas have suffered a series of massive population declines, attributable to bushfires, disease, habitat loss and hunting.
Today survival for koalas depends almost entirely on protection of habitat. Rapidly expanding urban centres would seem one of the greatest threats to koala populations. The clearing of land for agriculture also has a devastating effect, forcing koalas into isolated colonies in small forest remnants. Koalas are highly susceptible to stress caused by loss of habitat, harassment by domestic pets, and overcrowding in small forest remnants.
Ultimately the future of our koalas is a responsibility we all share. Individuals, community groups and government agencies must work together to save this unique symbol of our ‘natural heritage’.
LOCATION AND ACCESS
Accessed via Wyrallah Road, an alternate route between Lismore and Woodburn. Situated 5.5 kilometres south of Wyrallah village.
Information provided by National Parks & Wildlife Services