Landholders have a responsibility to protect Australia’s koalas too

By Australian Geographic | July 1, 2019

The relationship between landholders and koalas hasn’t always been positive, but landholders like Linda and David Kellalea are stepping up for these iconic Aussie animals.

IN 2002, Linda and David Kellalea purchased their 5.827ha property located halfway between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, one kilometre west of the coastal township of Pottsville.

“It was very neglected, abused and sad,” says Linda. “The soil was depleted, so too the land, which was barren of wildlife and birds.”

The property today is a different story. The couple were motivated after realising there was so much potential on the block to help wildlife.

“As the property is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac, it’s very private and quiet. At the present time it has everything a koala would love: shelter, protection and food.”

The previous owner had planted banana trees, which eventually had succumbed to Panama disease, so Linda and David quickly went about removing them all and building two dams.

The next step was planting more trees that could double as a food source and shelter for koalas. Some had been planted back in 1996, but there weren’t enough.

Linda and David’s property.

“Some were blown over in the cyclone, the very few remaining were getting eaten very quickly as the number of koalas increased and the food source depleted. In fact they stripped the trees bare and some never regained their foliage.”

Eventually, Linda and David were approached by Tweed Council, who asked them whether they’d be interested in planting some koala trees.

“Of course we jumped at the opportunity, not only at the koala trees but different rainforest species too.”

Over the next few years, David and Linda managed to care and maintain the trees with help from Tweed Council.

“You feel so rewarded when you see a koala perched in a tree no more than 10ft off the ground.

“As we now have many trees, it’s not uncommon to see them perched for the day in some of our ornamental species we planted around the house. 

“I hear them at night grunting close by. We have counted ten sightings in one day and there could be more.”

Linda and David.

The number of koalas in NSW has plummeted in the last 20 years because of road collisions, dog attacks and land clearing.

In 2018, the National Parks Association of NSW estimated that koala populations in NSW are under 20, 0000, a tiny fraction of what they once were.

There have been numerous calls for private landholders like Linda and David to play a much greater role in the conservation of koalas, as private land is often perfect koala habitat, so they’re stepping up.

“We all need to feel responsible for our choices in life. I have gratitude for the joy and opportunity I have been given to make a difference as a landholder to change the landscape for the wellbeing of our native wildlife. 

“Life is coming to an end for my partner and I, so my only dream would be that who ever buys this piece of paradise keeps conserving and taking care of our koalas.”

To read more about Linda and David Kellalea’s story you can visit the Office of Environment and Heritage’s new website NSW Koala Country.