PROTECTORS: The Ipswich Koala Protection Society is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Members Maureen Hall, Dr Rebecca Larkin, Steve Hall and Marilyn Spletter with Kotoni the koala.
PROTECTORS: The Ipswich Koala Protection Society is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Members Maureen Hall, Dr Rebecca Larkin, Steve Hall and Marilyn Spletter with Kotoni the koala. Rob Williams

Wildlife warriors as busy as ever 25 years on

FOR the past 25 years, a dedicated and hard-working group of volunteers has strived to protect the future of one of Australia's most beloved native animals.

They are as busy as they've ever been and it's somewhat of a bittersweet celebration for the Ipswich Koala Protection Society as they mark a quarter of a century in operation.

When they were established as the Woogaroo Koala Protection Society in 1994 in response to growing development in Springfield, the group had hoped they'd no longer be needed by now.

Despite the koala's future looking as dire as ever, the group's passion for the animal and the support they receive from the community keeps them going.

The group has about 200 members, made up of about 30 wildlife carers, and relies on grants and donations to power the vital work they do, rescuing between 100-200 koalas a year and other wildlife.

Koala carer, vice-president and life member Marilyn Spletter sleeps with her phone by her head and is on call 24 hours a day, covering thousands of kilometres to respond to calls.

From her Hatton Vale property, she has raised more than 100 joeys with her husband.

Sadly they can't save them all.

Mrs Spletter lost a couple of tiny joeys in the past fortnight.

But it's the backing of ordinary people that will allow koalas in the 72-year-old's care, such as the one she has currently from Coominya, to flourish.

Mrs Spletter met a woman at the group's celebration on the weekend who lives on 162 acres at Mount Hallen and is planting eucalyptus trees to replace those lost in the 2011 flood.

It is hoped, having come from 5km away, the koala will eventually call their property home.

"It's not easy," she said.

"You think 'do I do this, I'm not getting another one' until you hear there's one going and you think 'I'm there, I'm first, pick me' (to take care of it).

"Koalas are my passion. When I first started at the koala hospital 29 years ago, I felt like I had come home. That this was what I was put on this Earth for.

"Hopefully, I've got another 10 years left... I want to keep healthy so I can keep doing it."

President Ruth Lewis, a wildlife carer of 30 years, joined the group a year after it started.

"I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think we were making a difference," she said.

"With every rescue and every display, we're reaching the community.

"We're not radical greenies. We don't chain ourselves naked to bulldozers. It doesn't get you anywhere.

"That's something we've learnt over the 25 years is that it's to look at the big picture. We've all got to be on the same page, whether it's the council, the government or the community. Everyone has to take a responsibility for the way the world's shaping."

Although she said it was something that was "physically, emotionally and financially" draining, the importance of the work they did kept pushed them each day.

"The most important thing you can do is work together," she said.

"We've worked with the State Government to move a freight line, which we did in 2010. We did that with our mapping and our data and our data and our professionalism."



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