TO THE RESCUE:(From left): Prof Peter Timms, Brett Godfrey, Sir Richard Branson and Dr Jon Hanger.
TO THE RESCUE:(From left): Prof Peter Timms, Brett Godfrey, Sir Richard Branson and Dr Jon Hanger.

Sir Richard Branson’s plan to save the koala

SIR Richard Branson's Noosa island paradise, Makepeace Island, will become a safe haven for koalas.

Sir Richard will today announce the creation of the Richard Branson Koala Conservancy on the heart-shaped 10ha island nestled in the Noosa River.

The British billionare and founder of Virgin bought the island with former Virgin boss, Brett Godfrey, in 2003.

It has been his "Australian home" as well as a luxury resort for a maximum of "20 castaways" willing to pay the $3250 per day island use, as well as the $575 per adult per day registered guest fee.

Now it will also become a home for koalas, too, with koala-holding enclosures created on the island allowing for short stays and longer, pre-release habituation.

A Makepeace Island spokeswoman said the island owners felt "compelled to act", given the dire state of koalas in the region.

"There has been consistently bad news regarding the koalas so we now feel compelled to act," the spokeswoman said.

"It makes sense to offer the island as a base for scientific koala research projects, given our proximity to koala habitat along the Noosa River catchment."

Makepeace has approached University of the Sunshine Coast microbiology professor Peter Timms and Endeavour Veterinary Ecology manager director Jon Hanger to discuss the establishment of a "koala conservation initiative working with scientific and community groups to help the plight of koalas".

The conservancy will be a program committed to funding koala research to "contribute to the sustainability of koalas in Queensland and the Noosa region in particular".

It will work collaboratively with government as well as scientific and community groups in looking for a solution.

Community support will be encouraged by direct donations and through hosting fundraising events - the first of which will be hosted by the conservancy on Makepeace Island on September 30.

Five-year grant programs will be created to focus on addressing koala health, as well as looking at areas within Noosa for a suitable, long-term koala refuge.

Makepeace Island will serve as the base for the program.

It will also provide an initial injection of funds "to get the ball rolling".

"However, at this stage of the five-year-project plan, further investigation is needed to determine funding requirements," the spokeswoman said.

The announcement comes only days after Environment Minister Steven Miles said the State Government would consult with a range of specialists on koalas "as a matter of urgency".

Noosa and Sunshine Coast councils also have launched koala plans in a desperate bid to address the dwindling population.

The conservancy will have an advisory board, led by Professor Timms and Dr Hanger, that will encourage a multi-disciplinary approach to local koala efforts.

"We believe it is our responsibility to protect the island and surrounding area's flora and fauna and, as a tourist operation, we have a vested interest in sustainable tourism," the spokeswoman said.

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