Koalas desperate for a good leaf

Friends of the Koala volunteer leaf harvester Rick Stewart gives Brendan, a resident of the Koala Care Centre in East Lismore, some chocolate.

Variety is the spice of life and even the koala, with its austere gum leaf diet, hankers for a change now and then.

This fussy eater will turn up its nose at certain gum leaf varieties, and for the Friends of the Koala volunteer leaf harvesters, this causes no end of frustration. There are currently 21 koalas in care at the Koala Care Centre in East Lismore that rely on the good work of the leaf harvesters to provide them with their daily feed. The centre is desperate for new volunteers to keep up with the leaf harvesting and keep the fussy eaters happy.

They do change their tastes, said leaf co-ordinator Rick Stewart. And this is due to seasonal issues and individual preferences. There has to be considerable liaison between the koala carer and the leaf harvester to make sure the harvester provides the desirable menu.

Rick said Swamp Mahogany is like chocolate at the moment but the flavour of the month can change at a whim and the koalas will be demanding, in their quiet way, Tallow Wood or Forest Red Gum.

Quality leaf provision is one of the most important aspects of successfully rehabilitating koalas for release back into the wild. Koalas eat about half a kilo of gum leaves every day and require at least five times that amount to pick from.

Leaf harvesting for koalas in care is a daily task which requires knowledge and dedication, and Friends of the Koala is looking for people who can spare about two hours a week to participate in this rewarding work.

Leaf collection is part and parcel of caring for koalas, said Rick. It must be done come hail or shine and there is nothing more gratifying than watching those little guys tuck in. They really get stuck into a good leaf and you know when youve done your job well.

Friends of the Koalas first training day for 2007 will be held on Sunday, February 11. For information phone the Friends of the Koala Rescue Hotline on 6622 1233.

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