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Koalas on the green

Tuesday 17, Nov 2020

Kate Torgersen looks at a unique initiative on the Gold Coast which is seeing golf courses play a key role in providing safe havens and food sources for an Australian icon.

We all know how valuable our golf courses are to the environment, especially within urban areas, but this initiative I am about to tell you about is showcasing how golf courses can play a critical role in the long-term future of our many vulnerable flora and fauna species. 

Earlier this year I was introduced to David Cuschieri, an interior designer from the Gold Coast.  You may be wondering how an interior designer can be helping the environment on golf courses…?  Well, David and his wife Heidi are also wildlife carers and came up with an initiative called ‘Koalas on the Green’

The initiative came about after they attended over 100 callouts to sick and injured koalas around the Gold Coast just last year.  When a koala is rescued and rehabilitated by wildlife hospitals, according to Department of Environment and Science regulations they must be released within five kilometres of its rescue location.  And where can you find an expansive green area among the ever-growing urban sprawl… a golf course!

Not only are koalas battling with urban developments, but we also witnessed the devastating bushfires that occurred last summer.  It is believed that the bushfires decimated around one third of Australia’s remaining koala populations, almost to the point that groups are calling for their conservation status to be upgraded from vulnerable to critically endangered.  If there was ever a time to act, that time is now!

Perfect environment

Why a golf course?  Well, they provide habitat, sanctuaries, food sources and safe ‘koala super highways’ as David calls them, allowing koalas to travel safely, avoiding dog encounters, car strikes or being trapped by residential fences. 

One golf course that has embraced the Koalas on the Green programme is Arundel Hills Country Club.  This all came about when Charles the koala was rescued by David from a property a couple of hundred meters away from the golf course in mid-2019.  Charles was unable to see as he had chlamydial conjunctivitis and because of his condition would have most likely starved to death, been struck by a car or attacked by a dog. 

After Charles was treated at Australia Zoo’s wildlife hospital, the dilemma then became finding somewhere safe to release him within his home range. Arundel Hills was the perfect solution and he was released there to hopefully enjoy a more peaceful life. Releasing Charles at Arundel Hills was the inspiration for David to instigate the Koalas on the Green programme which involves planting food and habitat trees within golf course environs to provide sanctuaries, safe havens and food resources for urban koala populations.

CLICK HERE to read more about this amazing initative.