From Depletion to Regeneration – The Tour Letting Travellers Save Koala Habitats

by | Oct 28, 2021 | Article

Gracing the Eyre Peninsula region, Mikkira Station marks the perimeter of a secluded private property where an array of native flora and fauna seek sanctuary. Its quiet surrounds mean kangaroos, emus, koalas, and echidnas have free reign in this small pocket of South Australia just for themselves.

When Craig ‘Hassie’ Haslam and the Untamed Escapes team bring travellers to appreciate these animals, it’s about striking the perfect balance between giving them the space to roam comfortably, all while staying just close enough to have the privilege of witnessing them. Their extensive experience in South Australia, and Hassie’s affinity for gripping storytelling, makes them the experts in taking travellers on the journey through Mikkira Station’s untouched beauty.

Sleepy koala hanging hanging in an eucalyptus tree.

For koala lovers, Mikkira Station’s tranquil expanse is home to the only koalas that can be found in the Eyre Peninsula, reaching a population of around 170. But it wasn’t always that way.

Upon white settlement in South Australia, the clearing of eucalyptus forests for agriculture put pressure on its koala population, accelerated by an increasingly popular koala fur trade that was believed to eradicate koalas from the region. Between 1923 and 1925, 18 koalas were introduced to the Eyre Peninsula region to counteract the damage done.

Today, the population continues to grow, but they still need our help as invasive plants damage vegetation and displace koalas. But how can we help?

Untamed Escapes’ new 6 Day Eyre Peninsula & Flinders Ranges Adventure is an immersive South Australian adventure to remember with a koala conservation twist. Between the surfing, breathtaking landscapes, camping under the stars, and swimming with sea lions, travellers will band together to spend half a day planting trees or removing the weeds that threaten koala habitats at Mikkira Station. It’s not often tourists come away from their holiday knowing their efforts have left the natural environment better, but for the Untamed Escapes team, letting tourists contribute habitat regeneration was a no-brainer.

“Ecotourism and regeneration is in the DNA of the business,” stated Hassie.

Whether people simply become aware of the state of koalas in the Eyre Peninsula or want to get hands-on to make a difference, Hassie explained that education was the driving force behind their conservation mission.

So what was the catalyst that brought this unique initiative into action?

Koala hanging high on the branch of a tree.

“It was the bushfires,” said Business Development and Marketing Manager Anna Heaton, describing how an idea to add a conservation element to their tour floated around in conversation for a few years before the devastating effect of the 2019/20 bushfires spurred an urgency to revive koala habitats stronger than ever. Now koalas would have to overcome a loss of habitat, as well as the invasive plants populating the Eyre Peninsula dominating the vegetation koalas depend upon.

Two species of plants introduced to Australia have been identified as the main culprits: Polygala and the African Daisy. These resilient weeds regenerate quickly when their habitats are disturbed by fires of land clearing and dominate koala habitats. Thankfully, mitigating their implications for the surrounding environment is as simple as pulling these weeds out.

Koala holding onto an eucalyptus tree and looking in the distance.

Untamed Escapes had valuable minds contributing to curating this habitat rehabilitation experience for travellers. One was Geoff Rayson, an influential force in environmental regeneration who played an integral role in establishing Port Lincoln National Park in a previous role. Five years from retirement, Geoff asked Hassie for the opportunity to continue developing regeneration initiatives for Untamed Escapes for the remainder of his career – and Hassie listened. Geoff is excited to develop even more new programs for the Untamed Escapes team into the future.

The koala habitat regeneration program is the embodiment of Hassie’s philosophy, which he has carried with him throughout his illustrious ecotourism career: “We’ve all got a responsibility to say, however we leave this planet, whatever we do, let’s just make sure we leave it better.”

Nature’s transformative effect on travellers just became that much more rewarding. How could you beat that?

Logo of Untamed Escapes

All images courtesy of Untamed Escapes.

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